Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)
Daniel Scarborough (Nazarbayev University)
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- Thursday 10 October, 17:00-18:45 (UTC+0)
Author:Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)
Paper long abstract:
This presentation advances the notion of "Polar Islam" to describe the birth and structuring of Muslim communities in Russia's Arctic cities. It does not assert that Arctic conditions have created an entirely specific Islam; most of the features attributed here to "Polar Islam" can easily be found in other regions of Russia. Yet the climatic conditions, remoteness, and heavy industrial character of these cities contribute to accentuating certain characteristics that mold the social landscape in which Muslims live, thereby offering a fascinating regional case study of the development of Islam. This article first explores the emergence of Islamic symbols—mosques—on the Arctic urban landscape and the institutional struggles going on around the "grip" of this Polar Islam. It then delves into Muslim communities' cultural adaptation to their new Arctic identity. The blossoming of this Polar Islam confirms that Islam is no longer geographically segregated in its traditional regions, such as the North Caucasus and the Volga-Urals; it has spread to all the country's big cities. In this respect, Arctic cities are at the forefront of Russia's societal transformations. This research is based on fieldwork conducted in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 in Russia's main Arctic cities (Murmansk and the surrounding Kola Peninsula mining cities, Arkhangelsk, Severodvinsk, Naryan Mar, Vorkuta, Salekhard, Norilsk, Dudinka, Yakutsk, and Mirnyi). It draws on primary data on migration and mosque construction; secondary sources such as local newspapers; and semi-structured interviews with local experts, officials (city council MPs, Federal Migration Services and Department of Interethnic Relations representatives), imams, and communities of believers, as well as with migrants and their associations.
Author:Baktygul Tulebaeva (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Paper long abstract:
This paper deals with the local concept of tarbiya which is translated from Kyrgyz language as upbringing, moral education, and purposeful socialization. Tarbiya is one of the ways of constructing a person. Consequently, giving proper tarbiya is one of the main aspects of the "healthy growth" of a Kyrgyz child. What is good tarbiya or what makes "a good child" usually circles around the values and practices that people in Kyrgyzstan accept as socially and culturally important. One of those values is work. In Western societies the child and work are seen as an unusual combination. Unlike this modern Western notion that adults work and children play, in Kochkor, a village in the northern part of Kyrgyzstan where I conducted my ethnographic fieldwork in 2012 and 2013, on the contrary, work seems to be an inevitable part of a child's life. Kochkorians draw a direct and strong connection between work and tarbiya and they claim that "good life spoils children". In this paper I show that work is not only vital for survival or comfort, but it is also an integral part of a child's physical and moral education. I provide several case studies by highlighting different reasons for children's being involved in work. These cases also indicate that 'labor' that a child is engaged in and 'efforts' that a child tries to show are seen as positive signs of good upbringing - tarbiya. By looking at the role of work in the "construction" of a child, I argue that work is a constitutive part of childhood in Kochkor and it also serves as one of the main tools for constructing and re-constructing the notion of a child.
Author:Gulnaz Sibgatullina (University of Amsterdam)
Paper long abstract:
The paper focuses on discursive and translation strategies of Russian converts to Islam. In my analysis, I draw on a text corpus consisting of fifty conversion narratives that are published online and target both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences.
On a linguistic level, the texts demonstrate that converts avoid using Islamic terminology, replacing it by Orthodox Christian vocabulary. Arabic and Persian loanwords are perceived as elements that pollute the Islamic discourse in Russian and make it unintelligible even for coreligionists. Discursively, converts attempt to present conversion to Islam as a result of an intellectual search and not of coercion or persuasion. They argue that "their" Islam is different from the religion of existing Muslim communities in Russia, for it is free from undemocratic ethnic traditions and customs. According to converts, their form of Islam does not only contradict Russian norms and values but, to the contrary, enables a rediscovery of "authentic" Russianness.
I argue that the primary goal of these strategies is the creation of a legitimate space for ethnic Russian Muslims and distancing from negative images associated with Islam, and conversion, in general. The authors of the analysed texts construct the russkii Islam enrooted in Russian culture and way of living. The flipside of this discourse is that Russian converts end up repeating and reinforcing mainstream prejudices and stereotypes about Russia's Muslims, and place the russkii Islam above other forms of Islam.
Remarkably, the converts' attempt to "purify" Islamic Russian and rid it from "foreign" elements resembles linguistic strategies of Russia's Islamic elites. Such similarities in language use of two politically antagonistic groups signal the complexity of Russia's Islamic scene, where opposing parties often have to share the set of tactics. In this paper I demonstrate that the choice of religious vocabulary does not entail theological considerations, rather it reflects the process of defining what constitutes "true" Russianness and Muslimness.