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Accepted Paper:

Good Muslims being French: Reaching beyond the suffering slot in the ethnography of Islam in France  
Clayton Van Woerkom (Brigham Young University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how Muslims in a small French town seek “the good life” by pursuing a specific kind of personhood. It pushes back on a scholarship of Islam in France which has emphasized power to the exclusion of principles and practices of Muslimness and Frenchness that my interlocutors value.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the ways in which Muslims in a small town in France constitute their beings as they take up, interact with, embody, and (re)constitute various ideas and practices in pursuit of “the good life.” Specifically, I show how they negotiate abstract ideas about what it means to be a good French person and a good Muslim and the practices associated with those identity categories. In so doing, I situate my research within a broader scholarship of Islam in France which has generally centered abstract discourses related to power. Ethnographies of Islam in France have overwhelmingly focused on Muslim activists and religious leaders in large cities, showing how Muslim migrants and their descendents resist Islamaphobic, racist, and xenophobic discourses seeking to marginalize Muslim communities. While important, such an approach has limited the discussion to Islam in France to abstract discourses tied explicitly to oppression and suffering, power and resistance in urban areas. In contrast, I have found that my interlocutors value much more than the power and resistance that has been the focus of ethnographic work in French-Muslim communities. My research examines how Muslims in rural France define and seek after “the good life” by becoming a certain type of good person. To that end, I analyze situations I observed in mosques, homes, and local businesses where my interlocutors discuss and embody principles and practices of Islamic piety as well as principles and practices of Frenchness in the pursuit of their own definition of goodness.

Panel P003b
Beyond the 'Suffering Subject' in Migration Research II
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -