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Accepted Paper:

From Method To Concept: Vestigiality as an intercessor in the Anthropology of Islam  
Safwan Amir (Ahmedabad University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper introduces a field method (vestigiality) and turns it into a concept that takes the margins as the very spirit and spirituality of Islam with the goal of revisiting the dichotomy between invented and discursive tradition in the anthropology of Islam.

Paper long abstract:

Why have Islamic history and anthropology been caught in grand schemes and narratives? Why is it that a Golden Age or exceptional piety (and impiety) make for the subject of these disciplines? The thin line between an invented tradition (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) and a discursive tradition (MacIntyre 1984; Asad 2015) often disallows any serious engagement with Islam at epistemological and ontological levels. Rather than a binary between major and minor, the margins are privileged spaces of spirituality in the Islamic tradition. Humility, value given to consistent small acts, the position of the vulnerable, etc. are domains through which Islam pushes itself forward.

As part of my historical anthropological research on the Muslim barbers of South India, I developed a method from the field to trace ordinary Muslims' pasts. Inadvertently, the method began as an analytical tool, but then it transformed into a concept that I call vestigiality. This concept helps rethink teleological time, unearth ethical benchmarks that stand contradictory to capitalist modernity, and speak simultaneously to the past, present, and future. Inspired by the Prophetic trace that manifests as a relic, a lineage, or a dream, vestigiality is an attempt to go beyond major dichotomies within the anthropology of Islam. This paper will introduce vestigiality and place it in conversation with history, Islamic studies, and anthropology. It will end with a discussion on the metaphysics of dua' to demonstrate the possibilities that the margin holds for the anthropology of Islam.

Panel P060b
Muslim imaginaries beyond mediation: Islam, the divine, and radical hope/transformation II
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -