16th Annual Muslim Studies Program Conference

23 Feb 2023


Announced by the University of Pittsburgh:

Michigan State University is hosting an international conference entitled “Measuring Muslim Publics: Curves, Columns, Spheres and Squares.” This conference investigates who is ‘the public’ in public opinion? What effect does it have on politics? These questions have received a great deal of attention by scholars of American and European contexts where their contributions have taken on a universalistic overtone. Are these generalized assumptions valid in other societies – notably in Muslim-majority contexts? In addressing these questions, this conference aims to contribute to the interdisciplinary study of public opinion and ‘the public’ in Muslim contexts inside and outside of the Muslim world.

Previous research on public opinion and the public often falls into one of the following metaphorical categories. Survey research aggregates individual attitudes into curves measuring supplies of cultural values and of political demands. Media studies interprets the public through the writing of columns by journalists and their contemporary electronic equivalents. Social movement theories investigate the contentious social and political behavior of protest and demonstrations in city squares. Theories of public spheres investigate both the discourses that shape collective norms and the institutional settings they reside in.

Studies of public opinion from these various approaches in the Muslim world have increased in quantity and quality in recent years. However, researchers often fail to have conversations across both disciplinary boundaries and geographic scope. Area Studies specialists – of the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, or of Africa – may share interdisciplinary findings on their region of focus. Scholars within disciplines may use comparative research but without engaging with theories and methods from other fields. Moreover, with greater globalization of media and communications people hear, share (and ‘like’) content from beyond their own communities and nations. Yet, social media have also created information ‘bubbles’ while linguistic differences reflect lasting boundaries. Finally, do these theories and methods reflect imported or indigenous practices? While academic research on public opinion has been globalized in various disciplines, do the concerns of the field only reflect priorities from outside the regions they study? Thus, this conference seeks to foster a dialogue across disciplinary and geographic boundaries about research on public opinion and especially on who constitutes the public that it assumes.

Conference format: The two-day conference will take place on February 23-24, 2023

Event Date: 
Thursday, February 23, 2023 (All day) to Friday, February 24, 2023 (All day)
Sponsored By: 
Michigan State University
303 International Center, Michigan State University