Accepted paper:

The political economy of madrasah education: towards a radical re-interpretation of anthropology of education

Authors:

Nurhaizatul Jamil (NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY)

Paper short abstract:

My research is primarily concerned with Islamic religious education (madrasah) in Singapore, and its ethical cultivation of gender, sexuality and piety that complicates the formation of national/secular subjectivities. I argue that one of political anthropology’s radical interventions lies in the analytical resuscitation of the field of anthropology of education. At present, anthropological scholarship about education either glosses over gendered micropractices in quotidian, or focus on the micro at the expense of global circulations of capital. Conversely, I argue that an understanding of gendered and religious subjectivities is only possible by engaging in a political economic analysis of systems and transnational flows of neoliberal capital that sustain particular epistemological frameworks, and how they are mutually imbricated with processes of ethical subject formation. By considering the location of dispersed subjectivities – of both the researcher and the respondents - in a transnational, neoliberal economy, we address questions of power in relation to positionality and articulation. Thus my intervention is both methodological and theoretical – I emphasize the importance of attending to the concrete ways of observing, recording, and analyzing the abstract notion of the cultivation of reason and embodiment. Drawing from preliminary ethnographic and archival research, I propose the need to engage in a historical excavation of images and representations that document shifting forms of dressing, and modifications to spatial organization and architectural forms. In so doing, I present a nuanced analysis of the disciplining of gender and sexuality in Singapore’s marasahs, but also the ways in which individuals confirm, corroborate, subvert, or contest the imposition of norms. As an auto-ethnographer, I conclude by arguing for a nuanced strand of political anthropological research that problematizes my own subject position in pursuing this research while remaining conscious of the pitfalls of solipsism.

Paper long abstract:

My research is primarily concerned with Islamic religious education (madrasah) in Singapore, and its ethical cultivation of gender, sexuality and piety that complicates the formation of national/secular subjectivities. I argue that one of political anthropology's radical interventions lies in the analytical resuscitation of the field of anthropology of education. At present, anthropological scholarship about education either glosses over gendered micropractices in quotidian, or focus on the micro at the expense of global circulations of capital. Conversely, I argue that an understanding of gendered and religious subjectivities is only possible by engaging in a political economic analysis of systems and transnational flows of neoliberal capital that sustain particular epistemological frameworks, and how they are mutually imbricated with processes of ethical subject formation. Thus my intervention is both methodological and theoretical - I emphasize the importance of attending to the concrete ways of observing, recording, and analyzing the abstract notion of the cultivation of reason and embodiment. Drawing from preliminary ethnographic and archival research, I propose the need to engage in a historical excavation of images and representations that document shifting forms of dressing, and modifications to spatial organization and architectural forms. In so doing, I present a nuanced analysis of the disciplining of gender and sexuality in Singapore's marasahs, but also the ways that individuals confirm, corroborate, subvert, or contest the imposition of norms. As an auto-ethnographer, I argue for a nuanced political anthropological research that problematizes my own subject position while remaining conscious of the pitfalls of solipsism.

panel W121
Inspiring alter-politics: anthropology and critical political thinking (EN-FR)