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Call for Papers: "Far from Jihad. Combatants of Muslim origin in European armies in the 20th century"

"Far from Jihad. Combatants of Muslim origin in European armies in the 20th century"
Conference, Paris, 22-23 May 2014
Deadline for applications: 20 September 2013
During the two world wars and colonial wars of the 20th century, a large number of non-European soldiers fought in the ranks of the various European armies. This participation involved the armed forces of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Russia then the USSR, and to a lesser extent, Germany, Italy and Spain. A majority of these non-European combatants were Muslims. Why would Muslims, mainly from colonised societies, fight in European armies? How did such soldiers understand their experience of war in Europe? How did the military community itself, as well as European civilians, view such combatants? In the past few decades, studies of war have undergone a substantial renewal, with greater emphasis on the social and cultural dimensions of war, and on combatants’ experiences and viewpoints. Likewise, the question of empires (whether colonial or not) has enjoyed renewed interest, and the imperial dimensions of 20th century European history have been highlighted more. However, questions related specifically to combatants of Muslim origin have received little attention to date.
In this context, the colloquium will be aimed at better assessing the significance and the diversity of Muslim combatants’ participation in the major conflicts of 20th century European history. The combatants’ viewpoint will be emphasised as much as possible, alongside the viewpoint of administrations and the military hierarchy. The enquiry into how the Muslim religion did or did not influence the outcome for combatants of Muslim origin may be developed around five major themes:
-       Representations of Islam: Did political and military authorities use religious criteria in their recruitment and troop assignment policies? How did these same authorities view religious practices? Did their war propaganda refer to Islam? Did combatants see themselves chiefly as Muslims? The enquiry can also focus on non-religious combatants of Muslim origin.
-       Management of the cultural diversity of combatants: How did military authorities manage religious and linguistic differences? Did they attempt to lessen these differences or to accentuate them? Did their policies support, combat or show indifference to religion? How did these policies evolve over the 20th century?
-       Wartime practices of Islam: Were Muslim combatants religious? Did war result in increased religious faith? How were the main religious rituals respected (burials, dietary restrictions, religious holidays, etc.)? Who held religious authority in an official or non-official capacity?
-       Religious and non-religious intermediaries: Did Muslim religious authorities play a role in recruiting soldiers? Which specific intermediaries supervised Muslim combatants (interpreters, sub-officers or non-commissioned officers, imams, etc.)? What was the basis for their authority?
-       The role of Islam in showing loyalty or resistance: Did loyalty, as a major subject of concern for armies, find one of its sources in Islam? How did Islam mingle with imperial awareness, tribal and local solidarities, esprit de corps, primary group solidarity, and other factors of cohesion and loyalty? Were forms of resistance to mobilisation, engagement or combat motivated by religious reasons?
This colloquium is open to all social science researchers, and will be held in English.
Applications should be sent in English or French to the following email address: They should include a 500-word summary specifying the sources used, as well as a brief curriculum vitae. The deadline for receiving applications is 20 September 2013, and responses will be given around 30 October 2013.
Organisers: Xavier Bougarel (CETOBAC/EHESS), Raphaëlle Branche (CHS/University of Paris I) Cloé Drieu (CETOBAC/EHESS).


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