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Dr. Walaa Quisay is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at The School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. She holds a D.Phil from the University of Oxford and has previously worked at the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, and Istanbul Şehir University. Her first monograph is entitled Neo-traditionalism in Islam in the West: Orthodoxy, Spirituality and Politics (Edinburgh University Press, 2023).

Exploring tensions between traditional orientations and modern subjectivities, the pursuit of enchantment and existing in a disenchanted, secular world, Neo-traditionalism in Islam in the West examines neo-traditionalism, its public pedagogues and their students (seekers of sacred knowledge) in the Euro-American context. These pedagogues, many of whom are white converts to Islam – such as Hamza Yusuf, Abdal Hakim Murad, and Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, organize and disseminate their traditional knowledge in spiritual retreats often held in secluded locations in the ‘East’.  Many of the seekers embarking on the retreat are motivated to forge a spiritual connection and self-actualization in the sacredness of this re-enchanted space. Isolated from the modern world and imbued with traditional Muslim symbolisms, the retreats provide desirable orientations to the sacred world in Islam and a rejection of the modern world around them. That is, the retreat provides both ‘ways of seeing’ as well as ‘what is to be seen’ as part of Islam within modernity. The central thrust of the sites of the transaction of sacred knowledge is to ‘school’ the learners into different narratives of spiritual decline under modern conditions. This talk will examine the formation of political subjectivities in what is ostensibly an anti-modern space.