EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P094)
Gendering 'everyday Islam'
Location U6-28
Date and Start Time 23 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Claudia Liebelt (Bayreuth University) email
  • Pnina Werbner (Keele University) email

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Discussant Prof. Filippo Osella, Dr. Laura Menin

Short Abstract

This panel is interested in the gendering of the debate on 'everyday Islam' that recently took place in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. By this, we seek to renew a discussion that is of timely relevance, critically reviewing the legacies of the anthropology of Islam and the Middle East.

Long Abstract

In a recent debate in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory (2015, 5: 2), Nadia Fadil and Mayanthi Fernando observe that the question of the 'everyday' has become a prominent focus for the study of Islam in social anthropology and related disciplines. Taking up Lara Deeb's comment on their intervention, we consider the everyday a useful analytical category for anthropology, not in contrast to studies of Islamic piety and normativity, but as co-constituted with (Islamic) morality. Interestingly, gender has not been a part of this discussion, even though it plays a major role in many of the studies discussed by Fadil and Fernando. This is even more surprising given the fact that apart from being a methodological focus for the entire discipline, the everyday, especially the repercussions of power in the daily lives of women, have been a key theme of analysis and critique in feminist anthropology and in anthropological studies of the Middle East. Lila Abu-Lughod especially has been leading the way 'to convey a sense of the common everyday humanity' (1991) of the community she studied, showing how the 'dailiness' of women's poetry was capable of breaking coherence and introducing a world full of 'flux and contradiction'. Hence, this panel is interested in the gendering of the debate on 'everyday Islam.' By this, we seek to renew a discussion that is of timely relevance, critically reviewing the legacies of the anthropology of Islam and the Middle East.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The uncertainties and anxieties of veiling amongst British Pakistani women in Sheffield

Author: Hester Clarke (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the everyday ambiguities, concerns and apparent contradictions that arise for young British-born Pakistani women in Sheffield in deciding to wear the hijab; adding to explorations of the practice of veiling which inform discussions of gendered Islamic piety in daily life.

Long Abstract

Deciding when and how to wear the hijab raises particular dilemmas for British-born Pakistani women. Whilst all my informants (with whom I worked between July 2012 and September 2013) state that wearing the hijab is mandatory for Muslim women, many do not wear the garment themselves. Furthermore, young women frequently remove their hijab during special occasions, or only wear it within certain spaces. Aside from temporal and spatial differences in hijab wearing, many women who veil express concern and anxiety regarding their 'true intentions' for veiling, and the potential discrepancies between their outer appearance and 'inner selves'. Finally, for a minority of women, wearing the hijab is part of 'fitting in', 'looking good' or covering 'bad' hair, and divorced from expected discourses of piety, morality and/or politics.

Building on the responses of Deeb and Schielke in the 2015 5:2 edition of HAU, I explore the complex relationships between moral schemas, notions of 'intention', and the desire to be beautiful and 'fit in', which influence the hijab-wearing practices of British Pakistanis. I argue that these practices contribute to an ongoing performance of self, which is entangled within understandings of piety, morality, and beauty which in turn, are mediated by social relationships. I demonstrate how such entanglements yield incoherent and ambiguous outcomes for women in their daily lives; thereby contributing to the ethnographically-informed discussions both on veiling amongst Muslim women in the UK (see Tarlo 2010, Tarlo and Moor 2013), and wider debates on gender and 'everyday Islam'.

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Islamic feminism as a way to live the "everyday Islam": the second-generation of young Muslim women in Spain

Author: Blanca Mendoza (Autonomous University of Barcelona)  email

Short Abstract

This paper presents Islamic feminism as an ideology that is changing the way second-generation Muslim women educated in Spain understand and experience the "everyday Islam".

Long Abstract

Migration process brings along changes in the structure and dynamics of Muslim families, particularly in the roles of women. The boundaries between what is considered piety vary within this process. In this research we have found new ways of understanding Islamic morality; through the ideal of Islamic feminism these young women try to integrate Islam into their everyday.

This research is based on the doubly-reflexive ethnography that emphasizes the importance of comparing the discourses and interpretations of the subjects with what is observed in the practice. The methods used are participant observation within Muslim student associations and social networks (Facebook and WhatsApp chat groups) for two years, and the biographical method which has been used in order to know the individual experiences of these women through their narratives.

Islamic feminism promotes a contextual and historical reading of the Qur'an that encourages political, social and academic participation of women. For the participants of this research a way of piety is to vindicate themselves as educated Muslim women that actively participate into society to make it fairer and equitable. They think orthodox religious practices, like wearing the hiyab, are important but not essential. The perspective of Islamic feminism brings congruence to the "everyday Islam" of these women; a balance between morality, religion and everyday practices.

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Negotiating moral values, personal desires, and everyday Islam among Zanzibari women, through the use of mobile phones

Author: Marloes Hamelink (Utrecht University, the Netherlands)  email

Short Abstract

Communication technologies are used by women in Zanzibar to conform to socially expected moral values which are part of the everyday practice of Islam, and also to create the freedom to live according to contrasting personal desires.

Long Abstract

Moral values determine many aspects of 'the everyday' for women in Zanzibar. These values are rooted in the Islamic traditions of the archipelago. Morality is gendered, as women are predominately held responsible for both living according to moral ideas and in raising their children with certain values. Through a system of social surveillance, neighborhood communities and family members take on the responsibility of monitoring moral practices of others. Women live according to these societal expectations, and meanwhile they have personal desires that might be in contrast with certain moral values. My research focuses on how the use of communication technologies enables women to navigate between both discourses. Mobile phone and internet use are embedded in the societal system of moral values, and the religious cultural background of women helps determine how mobile phones and internet are used. Through the use of communication technologies, women can negotiate between living according to these societal expectations, in addition to following their personal desires. Internet and mobile phone use allow different communication levels for women, without leaving the safe and controlled environment that they inhabit. According to gendered norms, women find innovative ways of being in touch with others in other spaces. This paper seeks an understanding of the dynamics of mobile phone and internet use in the everyday moral practice of Islam.

Moral frameworks and policing: a case study of how Pakistani policewomen's choices can shape the police culture in Pakistan

Author: Sadaf Ahmad (Lahore University of Management Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

This paper highlights how Pakistani police women’s understanding of piety and morality, both ritualistic and otherwise, combines with their gender identity to mediate some aspects of their everyday policing, subsequently serving to both weaken and strengthen the police culture in different ways.

Long Abstract

Pakistani women form 0.89% of the total police force in the country. Working in a male dominated profession in a patriarchal society, however, is only one of the elements that shape their experience of policing and the nature of their policing. The latter is also influenced by rank, geographical location, the police branch a person is posted in, education, etc. The first half of this paper will highlight how one of these many elements—women's understanding of piety and morality, both ritualistic and otherwise—combines with their gender identity to mediate some aspects of their everyday policing in the different contexts in which they work. Their individual negotiations between these elements sometimes results in some of them making choices that come in the way of their carrying out their duties as effectively as they could. On the other hand, and as the second half of this paper will demonstrate, their moral framework and the understanding of right and wrong that it gives rise to can also, in some instances, support and strengthen a larger police culture with reference to the extrajudicial violence that forms a key part of its functioning. I suggest that these different scenarios can encourage us to look at the complexity of moral frameworks while simultaneously throwing light on how this element constitutes policing in Pakistan.

Islamic normativity in discontented British South Asian marriages

Author: Kaveri Qureshi (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Through a study of marital breakdown among South Asian Muslim couples in Britain, this paper takes up Fadil and Fernando’s suggestion that ‘being sexual’ offers a site in which to examine the workings of Islamic normativity in the everyday, as well as a site in which to gender this debate.

Long Abstract

This paper takes up Fadil and Fernando's suggestion that 'being sexual' offers a promising site in which to examine the workings of Islamic normativity in the everyday: this also appears to be a promising site in which to gender this debate. The paper draws from a study of marital breakdown among South Asian Muslim couples in Britain. In this study, I found that Islamic literature and TV programming about marriage were being consumed by South Asian Muslim families in Britain, much of which develops themes that were established in the late 19th century/early 20th century reformist work from South Asia, but addresses these themes to stem a recent tide of divorce. In the long term of difficult marriages, I found women to be educating themselves about, and working themselves into the mould of these Islamic norms, but also using the teachings in ways that diverge from the intentions of the authors and TV hosts: taking these statements as benchmarks of what a wife should expect from a husband, and considering them justification for ending their marriages - and for remarriage - rather than reversing the contemporary swell in divorce. Lest the everyday again be read as resistive, in contrast with the patient submission of the religious virtuoso, we can recognize how Islamic norms themselves provide women with grounds for separating from their husbands. At the same time, like the poetry examined by Abu-Lughod, it is evident that divorce is not straightforwardly emancipatory but equally saturated by relations of gendered power.

Performing piety in contemporary Turkey: ethnographic observation of the vaizeler's sessions in Istanbul

Author: Chiara Maritato (University of Turin)  email

Short Abstract

The article is the result of one-year fieldwork in Istanbul different neighbourhoods attending the sermons and religious sessions of female preachers (vaizeler) employed by the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs.

Long Abstract

The article is the result of one-year fieldwork in Istanbul different neighbourhoods attending the sermons and religious sessions of female preachers (vaizeler) employed by the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). Starting from the early 2000s, the latter, a bureaucratic agency considered one of the emblems of Turkish secularism (laiklik), has increased the number and competences of the vaizeler working all over the country. Investigating the forms and meaning of this policy, this contribution casts light on the vaizeler's everyday engagement providing women with official religion knowledge and moral guidance. In this sense, the observations of the vaizeler's sessions and the dialogues originating within such a female-only spaces would enhance the debate on the heterogeneous female religious participation in contemporary Turkey. Moreover, it would contribute in questioning how piety as a set of practices is publicly performed through daily exercises.

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Gendering Islam through Migration experience: Egyptian women's gatherings in a mosque of Turin (Italy)

Author: Laura Ferrero (University of Turin)  email

Short Abstract

Describing the activities that Egyptian women organized in a mosque in the city of Turin (Italy), my paper brings insights on the debate about everyday Islam, about the multiple meanings of being a Muslim woman in a Western society and about how religious practices change through migration process.

Long Abstract

A big part of the Muslim population is now living in non-Muslim countries. Since studies in the countries of origin have underlined the differences in the religious life of men and women (Fernea et al., 1972; MacLeod, 1991; Mahmood, 2004), I argue that is also necessary to gendering the religious practices in the arrival countries. In order to do so, I describe the activities that two groups of Egyptian women organized in a mosque in the city of Turin (Italy) in the period in which I carried out my participant observation (2011-2013). The value of the gatherings in the mosques in migration context goes beyond the religious and spiritual aspect, and includes social and a cultural meanings. Women involved in the mosque were mostly organizing activities for them and for their children; describing those activities I want to show how their way to gathering in a local mosque brings insight to a wider debate about everyday Islam and about the multiple meaning of being Muslim in a western society. I consider their activities both as a way to accomplish Islamic duties and as a form of agency, that requires to be read beyond the dichotomy "modern vs. traditional". Differently from what is often done in the literature about everyday Islam, I do not read those practices in opposition with the textual norm, but rather in relation with the religious practices in the country of origin.

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Bringing the pilgrimage home: the meanings of the Hajj as an empowering tool in everyday life in Asra's Nomani's memoir Standing Alone

Author: Marjo Buitelaar (University of Groningen)  email

Short Abstract

Using Dialogical Self Theory as an analytical tool, in this paper it will be demonstrated how in her Hajj memoir Standing Alone Asra Nomani merges and combines various moral discourses that inform her daily life to narratively construct her selfhood.

Long Abstract

Following Samuli Schielke (2015) and Sherine Hafez (2011), this paper analyses how the multifaceted needs and desires that result from the ways that people's everyday life is informed by various discourses simultaneously feature in the Hajj memoir Standing Alone (2006) by the journalist Asra Nomani. Nomani presents her pilgrimage to Mecca as a personal and spiritual quest to find answers to existential questions considering her commitments and various senses of belonging as an American Muslim woman with Indian roots. Against the background of her everyday experiences as being 'frowned upon' as a single mother by members of the Indian diaspora community she belongs to, in her Hajj memoir Nomani reclaims her religious heritage from those who use it as a tool for oppression. Stepping in the footsteps of Hajar, another single mother whose faith in and rescue by God is played out during the Hajj, Nomani finds a strong female Muslim role model to identify with. Having appropriated Islam as an empowering moral discourse, Nomani takes the extraordinary experience of the Hajj back home to her everyday life to become an activist in the various communities that she belongs to claim Muslim women's rights as equal citizens. Using Dialogical Self Theory as an analytical tool, it will be demonstrated how in her Hajj memoir Nomani merges and combines various moral discourses that inform her daily life to narratively construct her selfhood.

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Everyday Islam for childless women in Northwestern Turkey

Author: Merve Goknar  email

Short Abstract

Religious practices and conversations about religion comprise a major part of quotidian activities in the two villages in northwestern Turkey - where I did my research about childlessness.This paper discusses the significance of everyday Islam as a gendered locus for socialization.

Long Abstract

Religious practices and conversations about religion comprise a major part of quotidian activities in the two villages in northwestern Turkey - where I did my research about childlessness. Men's and women's everyday interaction with Islam dominated their ways of thinking, acting and especially socializing. This paper discusses the significance of everyday Islam as a gendered locus for socialization. Women's gatherings for reading the Koran are one example of Islam's presence in their social lives. The paper explores the ways in which the Koran and the hadith as discursive resources of Islam influence the power relations and everyday practices. People in these villages frequently invoked canonical texts and the hadith to authorize certain practices. The common acceptance of the idea that women are weak and need protection by men limited women's mobility while the Islamic discourse of Everything is God-given, helped childless women navigate the challenges of childless life.

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Between Khatam Qur'ans and Slametans: gender and class in South Asian and Indonesian interdomestic rituals‎

Author: Pnina Werbner (Keele University)  email

Short Abstract

A focus on veiling and prayer has led to a neglect of rites of passage or offerings countering ‎affliction, as routine activities of everyday Islam. I compare khatam Koran rituals, as celebrated by ‎South Asian Muslims with the Indonesian Slametan, drawing out these rituals' gendered ‎dimensions.‎

Long Abstract

The emphasis on Islamic veiling and daily prayers had led to a neglect of the celebration of rites of passage or the countering of suffering of affliction, with their attendant rituals of offering and sacrifice, as routine activities of everyday Islam. My paper compares the khatam Koran ritual, as celebrated by Muslims in Pakistan ‎and North India, including their diasporas, with the Indonesian Slametan. It points ‎to the striking similarities scholars have identified in the way that such rituals allow ‎for the creation of an everyday interdomestic domain controlled in large measure by ‎women and based on female networking. Class and gender intersect in such ‎networks, allowing for different configurations of inter-household relations in ‎villages, neighbourhoods and urban contexts. If the slametan was an extension of ‎South Indian kanduri celebrations, the contemporary spread of communal Koran ‎readings to Indonesia highlights the continuing interconnections across the Muslim ‎world as these affect women's capacities to network beyond the constricted, ‎restricted domestic domain.‎

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.