HomeDreaming and “the Unseen” in Africa and in Muslim Worlds

HomeDreaming and “the Unseen” in Africa and in Muslim Worlds

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Published on Tuesday, March 02, 2021


This online workshop seeks to trace the connections between dreaming and the world of “the unseen” in a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective. Its main aim is to explore how in Africa and in Muslim worlds people dream of the invisible, which constitutes part of everyday experience and religiosity.



This online workshop seeks to trace the connections between dreaming and the world of “the unseen” from comparative and multidisciplinary perspectives. Its main aim is to explore how in Africa and in Muslim worlds people dream of the invisible, which constitutes part of everyday experience and religiosity[1].

Al-ghayb in Arabic is an emic concept related to the hidden, a world populated by divine or demonic entities,[2] and a central conceptual tool for meaning-making in Muslim worlds. The ability to see what lies hidden, for example, in dreams, is crucial to mystical experiences, and the invisible is sometimes valued more highly than the observable world.

Dreams have long been studied in anthropology. Among historians[3], archeologists[4], and scholars of literature[5], there has been increased recognition of dream studies [6] and, more broadly, night studies[7] in recognition of the social and religious dynamics produced in the realm of the night.

For Africa[8] and Muslim worlds[9], various topics have been studied, such as dream incubation or istikhara[10], dreams of God,[11] martyrdom,[12] conversion[13] and, more recently, the role of dreams in jihadist proselytization14.

Following recent scholarly moves[14], the aim is to challenge scholarship that presents different religions as separate blocs and does not study them within a common analytical frame. Dreams of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, the Qur’an, and the Bible could all shed light on Muslim encounters with various Others in different settings.

The objective is to foster an international discussion to develop tools for analyzing how individuals experience everyday religiosity in Muslim worlds and about ways of sensing invisible spirits and the divine.

Main themes

Papers are welcome on the following topics (among others):

  • ethnographic case studies of visitational, inspirational and investiture dreams;
  • conversion dreams;
  • Christian-inspired dreaming in Muslim worlds;
  • dreams and jihadism;
  • gender, dreaming and the unseen;
  • representations of dreams and the unseen in art and popular culture;
  • and sources for dreams study (digital dream reports, dream books, dream diaries, literary dream reports, etc.).

Visual and art-based approaches and methods are welcome, and short films that relate to the topic will be screened.

Submission guidelines

Authors are invited to send an abstract (max. 300 words) and a short bio (100 words) to Amalia Dragani at the following email address: amalia.dragani@ufl.edu. Since the online workshop (scheduled for May 3, 2021) will be international, the official language will be English. However, papers can be presented in English, Italian, or French. Paper proposals are welcome from both experienced scholars and PhD students. Selected papers will be published in an edited volume or a special issue of a scholarly journal.

The deadline for abstracts is March 20, 2021.

Scientific coordination

Amalia Dragani, Marie Sklodowska- Curie Global Fellow, Center for Global Islamic Studies, University of Florida & Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


Abdullah, S., 2019, “Dreams and Religious Conversions: A Study of Malaysian Muslim Converts”, International Journal of Dream Research, 12, 1, p. 53–61.

Beradt, C., 1985, The Third Reich of Dreams: the nightmares of nation, 1933–1939, Wellingborough, Aquarian Press.

Brofen, E., 2013, Night passages: Philosophy, literature, and film, New York, Columbia University Press.

Bubandt, N., 2012, "A Psychology of Ghosts: The Regime of the Self and the Reinvention of Spirits in Indonesia and Beyond", Anthropological Forum 22, 1, p. 1-23.

Bubandt N., Rytter M., Suhr C. (eds), 2019, Al-Ghayb. The Poetics and Politics of the Unseen in Islam, in Contemporary Islam, 13, 1.

Chimombo, S., 1989, “Dreams, Conversion and Ntara's "Man of Africa", Journal of Religion in Africa, 19, 1, p. 48-70.

Constant, I., 2008, Le Rêve dans le roman africain et antillais, Paris, Karthala.

Crapanzano, Vincent, 1975, “Saints, Jnun, and Dreams: An Essay in Moroccan Ethnopsychology”, Psychiatry, 38, p. 145-59.

Crary, J., 2007, Late capitalism and the ends of sleep, London and New York, Verso.

Drieskens, B. 2006, Living with Djinns. Understanding and Dealing with the Invisible in Cairo, London, Saqi Books.

Edgar, I., 2011, The Dream in Islam: From Quranic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration. New York, Berghahn Books.

El-Aswad, E-S., 2010, « Dreams and the Construction of Reality: Symbolic Transformations of the Seen and the Unseen in the Egyptian Imagination”, Anthropos 105, 2, p. 441-53.

El-Zein, A., 2009, Islam, Arabs, and the Intelligent World of the Jinn, New York, Syracuse University Press.

Fisher, H., 1979, “Dreams and Conversion in Black Africa”, in N. Levtzion (ed.), Conversion to Islam, New York, Holmes and Meier.

Galinier J. and Monod A. (eds.), 2010 Anthropology of the night: Cross-disciplinary investigations, in Current Anthropology, 51, 6.

Goblin N. and Nowell A., 2017, Archaeology of the Night: Life after Dark in the Ancient World, Boulder, University Press of Colorado.

Khan, N., 2006, “Of Children and Jinns: An Inquiry into an Unexpected Friendship During Uncertain Times”, Cultural Anthropology, 21, 6, p. 231-264.

Jedrej, M. C. and Shaw, R. (eds.), 1992, Dreaming, Religion, and Society in Africa. Leiden, Brill. Lavie, P. and Kaminer H., 2001, ‘Sleep, dreaming, and coping style in Holocaust survivors’ in D. Barrett (ed.), Trauma and Dreams, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Lory, P., 2003, Le rêve et ses interprétations en Islam, Paris, Albin Michel.

Louw, M., « Dreaming up Futures: Dream Omens and Magic in Bishkek, in History and Anthropology, vol. 21, 3, p. 277-292.

Mageo J. and Sheriff R. E., 2021 (eds.), New Directions in the Anthropology of Dreaming, London and New York, Routledge.

Mittermaier, A., 2011, Dreams that Matter. Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Ozgen F., Knysh eds.), 2012, Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies, Suny Press.

Palmer B.., 2000, Cultures of darkness: Night travels in the history of transgression, New York, Monthly Review Press.

Pouresmaeil, E., 2012, “Seeing Allah while Dreaming: A comparison between Shi’a and Sunni Beliefs”, Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies, 5, 1, p. 65-80.

Pandolfo, S., 1997, Impasse of the Angels. Scenes from a Moroccan Space of Memory, Chicago, Chicago University Press.

Pandolfo, S., 2018, Knot of Soul. Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam, Chicago, Chicago University Press.

Pype, K. 2011, ‘Dreaming the Apocalypse: Mimesis and the Pentecostal imagination in Kinshasa’, Paideuma 11, p. 81–96.

Sirriyeh, E., 2011, “Dream narratives of Muslims’s Martyrdom: Constant and Changing Roles Past and Prsent”, Dreaming, 21, 3, p. 168-80.

Soares, B. (ed.), 2006, Muslim-Christian Encounters in Africa, Leiden and Boston, Leiden, Brill.

Soares, B., 2016, “Reflections on Muslim-Christians Encounters in West Africa”, Africa, 86, 4, p. 673-697.

Spadola, E., 2014, The Call of Islam. Sufis, Islamists and Mass Mediation in Urban Morocco, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Taneja, A. V., 2013, “Jinnealogy: Everyday life and Islamic Theology in Post-partition Delhi”, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 3, 3, p. 139–165.

Von Grunebaum, G. E. and Callois, Roger (eds.), 1966, The Dream and Human Societies, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Wilmer, H. 2001, ‘The healing nightmare: war dreams of Vietnam veterans’ in D. Barrett (ed.), Trauma and Dreams, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.


[1] Bubandt, Rytter, Suhr, 2019.

[2] Bubandt 2012; Drieskens 2006;; El-Zein 2009; Khan 2006; Pandolfo 1997, 2018; Spadola 2014, Taneja 2013.

[3] Beradt 1985 ; Lavie et Kaminer 2001 ; Wilmer 2001.

[4] Goblin and Nowell 2017.

[5] Chimombo 1989; Constant 2008.

[6] Mageo and Sheriff 2021.

[7] Brofen 2013; Crary 2007; Galinier and Monod 2010; Palmer 2010.

[8] Pype 2011; Jedrej and Shaw 1992

[9] Crapanzano 1975; Edgar 2011; El-Aswad el-Sayd 2010; Lorry 2003; Mittermaier 2011; von Grunebaum 1966.

[10] Edgar and Henig 2010.

[11] Pouresmaeil 2012.

[12] Sirriyeh 2011.

[13] Fisher 1979, Abdullah 2019 14 Iain 2011.

[14] Soares 2006, 2016.



  • 471 Grinter Hall
    Gainesville, America (32106)


  • Saturday, March 20, 2021


  • Dream, Unseen, Africa, Islam


  • Amalia Dragani
    courriel : amalia [dot] dragani [at] ufl [dot] edu

Information source

  • Amalia Dragani
    courriel : amalia [dot] dragani [at] ufl [dot] edu


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Dreaming and “the Unseen” in Africa and in Muslim Worlds », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, March 02, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/164i

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