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CANCELED: Agnes Kefili, ‘Varieties of Esoteric Islam in Post-Soviet Tatarstan’

March 19, 2020 at 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

After the collapse of the USSR, intellectuals from traditionally Soviet Muslim ethnicities began the complicated process of rethinking their religious identities, political philosophies, and worldviews. Although Western scholars often present this process as an unproblematic “return to Islam,” the newly religious thinkers of the 1990s engaged the rich philosophical universe of their time, incorporating and rejecting elements of New Age, occult, and esoteric systems in their efforts to formulate answers for the contemporary world. Kefili’s paper focuses on the Tatars (the largest Muslim minority in Russia), whose writers sought not only to recover religion but to remake it in a form suitable for their post-Soviet society.

Agnes Kefeli has taught Tatar, history, and religious studies at Arizona State University since 1995. In her award-winning book, “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy” (Cornell UP, 2014), she examines four different areas: popular religion, education, gender, and the frontier. She is especially interested in conversion, popular contestation of official identities, production of religious knowledge, collective memory, and women’s activities in the religious sphere, in the past as well as in the present.

Please note that the participants will give an overview of their projects, but will not read a formal paper. Instead, papers or book chapters will be circulated ahead of time to those who are interested in attending and participating in the discussion. Please contact Eren Tasar for more information (

The Carolina Seminar: Russia and Its Empires, East and West is co-sponsored by the Carolina Seminar Program, the UNC Department of History and the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies.


March 19, 2020
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
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FedEx Global Education Center
301 Pittsboro St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516 United States
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