Accepted Paper:

Muslims in diaspora: piety of place-making in the Global North  


Sholeh Shahrokhi (Butler University)

Paper short abstract:

From mosques to halal markets; from religious events to charity, Muslims in diaspora have shifted the discourse of belonging from places of origin to communities of care. Muslims in America blur the lines between familiar/strange through space-making strategies connecting faith with public life.

Paper long abstract:

In the era of neoliberal reforms, mass migration across the globe is deemed an inevitable condition of life in the contemporary. However, current ideas about displaced bodies and immigration continue to be deeply shaped by notions of "home" and "places of origin". Whether as an articulation of a sense of longing for the "life that once was" (memory of a place); or else as a social marker to classify the dislocated (politics of exclusion), uprooted populations are situated in a liminal space of "belonging". Specifically, in recent years, Muslims in diaspora have become the embodiment of the figure of the "trespassing other" in western political cartographies. Everyday life practices of Muslim immigrants in the global north, however, is illustrative of their power in place-making that intersects across an ethnically diverse community. Faith, in this light, becomes the bond that connects Muslims in diaspora, not only through shared identities, but more powerfully, through shared practices. Mosques, as institutions for worship, become community centers where Muslim immigrants can seek guidance and refuge regardless of their linguistic, ethnic, and national ties to their respective countries of origin. "Home", in other words, emerges as a sense of a place that flows between the two regions of im/possibilities - the memory of the origin; and the vision for the life in the present. Based on a series of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork among diverse ethnic groups of Muslim immigrants in the US, I look at how new forms of belonging emerge through everyday practices and relationships.

Panel MB-SSR02
Ideas of movement, faith, and home in Muslim communities in the diaspora