Muslims in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism

Monday, 3 March 2014, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
After 1989, Islam reappeared as an important social and political factor in the Balkans. With the newly-emerged religious freedom, and in the context of multiple structural and cultural post-communist transitions, Muslim communities underwent remarkable transformations. They sought to renegotiate their place in formally secular legal and normative environments, mostly as minorities in majority-Christian societies. They reclaimed their Islamic faith, practices and identities in a complex geopolitical situation dominated by anti-Muslim sentiments, particularly after 9/11, which mapped upon already existing national and regional apprehension of Islam related to the legacies of the five centuries of Ottoman rule in the Balkans.

Post-communism created conditions for a rising political and cultural awareness of Muslims, which was frequently expressed by recourse to two frames of reference: the national and the transnational. Despite a certain level of tension between those two perspectives, they were closely intertwined. This paper argues that transnational Islamic influences in the region often reinforced Muslim ethno-national identities rather than prompting a radical redefinition of religious allegiances in the key of a “universalist” Islam.

Merdjanova_Rediscovering the UmmaIna Merdjanova is Senior Researcher and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Trinity College Dublin. She had held visiting fellowships at Oxford University, Birmingham University, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Edinburgh University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Central European University in Budapest and Radboud University in Nijmegen. Merdjanova has also won research grants from the British Academy, DAAD, Volkswagen Foundation, the Unites State Institute of Peace, and the European Commission. Her most recent publications include Religion as a Conversation Starter: Interreligious Dialogue for Peacebuilding in the Balkans (with Patrice Brodeur; Continuum, 2009), and Rediscovering the Umma: Muslims in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism (Oxford University Press, 2013).