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Centres and institutes_

Religion, State and Society Research Network

Understanding Muslim-majority states and the Muslim diaspora
Religion has become integral to the conversation about how democracy, citizenship, gender and social justice can be embedded within an inclusive discourse in the sociocultural and political sensibilities of the Muslim world.

About us

The Religion, State and Society Network is made up of academics and postgraduate students from various disciplines, including the Muslim world (the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia) and beyond (Europe and Australia). We also have experts in theology, security, socio-cultural theory, feminism and governance. We aim to deepen and expand cross-disciplinary research collaborations between academics and students at the University of Sydney. 

Since its formation in 2011, the network has held symposiums, seminars, workshops and forums, participated in joint publications and book launches and a film festival. The network has attracted support from the Faculty of Arts Collaborative Research Scheme and external grants from the Australia and Malaysia Institute and the Council of Australian Arab Relations. 

Our people

The Religion, State and Society Research Network comprises academics and researchers from across the University of Sydney and welcomes researchers from around the world.

  • Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter, School of Languages and Cultures
  • Dr Lucia Sorbera, School of Languages and Cultures
  • Associate Professor Lily Rahim, School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Dr Leticia Anderson, National Centre for Cultural Competence
  • Professor Michael Humphrey, Department of Sociology and Social Policy
  • Dr Martin Kear, Department of Government and International Relations
  • Dr Omid Tofighian, School of Philosophy and Historical Inquiry
  • Associate Professor Sarah Phillips, Department of Government and International Relations
  • Professor Sahar Amer, School of Languages and Cultures
  • Dr Safdar Ahmed, School of Languages and Cultures
  • Zeinab Jasim Abdulnabi, School of Social and Political Sciences

Our research

Our work centres on two main clusters: democratisation and gender.

We conceive of gender as an intersectional category of analysis in the study of religions, state and societies, and we embrace a gender perspective in all our projects, and our network includes expertise in gender and feminist studies. Our work covers a range of topics:

  • comparative, cross-cultural relations between Arab and Muslim societies and Western cultures, from the Middle Ages until today
  • gender and sexuality in Arabic and French literature, on Franco-Arab and Arab-American postcolonial identities, and on Muslim women veiling practices
  • gender, race, religion and the state, including feminist analyses of Islamist politics and Western attitudes
  • sexual orientation, the state, religion and human rights
  • feminist political and cultural history in Egypt and the Arab world
  • contemporary social movements in the Arab world, and feminisms in the Mediterranean.

The democratic aspirations that initially fuelled the 2011 Arab Spring Uprisings have been overshadowed by the renewal of authoritarian governance in many Muslim-majority states.

Many of these authoritarian regimes have been fortified by the international campaign against militant jihadi groups. The political trajectories in Muslim-majority states are much more complex than neat theoretical models would suggest, and the experience of authoritarian and post-authoritarian states are far from linear – often moving forward, backward and forward again, or stalling for a number of years.

This cluster focuses on the key forces that have contributed to the resilience of authoritarian regimes as well as the chequered shifts towards democratic governance. Towards these ends, we employ comparative and country case studies.

Network director

Head shot of Associate Professor Lily Rahim
Associate Professor Lily Rahim
View Lily Rahim's academic profile

Contact us

Associate Professor Lily Rahim
  • Room 285, Merewether Building, H04