Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices

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Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices
Ethnographies of Islam- Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices.jpg
AuthorBaudouin Dupret, Thomas Pierret, Paulo Pinto, Kathryn Spellman Poots
PublisherEdinburgh University Press

The book Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices aims to highlight the various uses and conceptions of ethnography that can be mobilised for a deeper understanding of Islamic practices, discourses and forms of subjectivity.

About the authors[edit | edit source]

Baudouin Dupret is educated in Law, Islamic Sciences and Political Sciences. He is Directeur de Recherche at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and was appointed in 2010 Director of the Centre Jacques-Berque in Rabat, Morocco. He is also lecturer in Islamic law at the universities of Louvain and Strasbourg. He has published extensively in the field of the sociology and anthropology of law, legislation and media, especially in the Middle East. His current work involves a praxiological approach to the production of truth in Arab contexts, including courts and parliaments, scientific expertise, the media, and religious education. He (co-)edited numerous volumes, the last one being Narratives of Truth in Islamic Law (Saqi books, 2008), and authored several single-authored books, e.g. Practices of Truth (Benjamins, 2011) and Adjudication in Action: An Ethnomethodology of Law, Moral and Justice (Ashgate, 2011).

Dr Thomas Pierret is Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh, Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. He received his PhD in Political and social sciences from Sciences Po Paris and the University of Louvain. His areas of interest include the issue of religious authority in Muslim societies, Islamic movements, and the politics of the Middle East (in particular Syria). He is the author of Baas et Islam en Syrie. La dynastie Assad face aux oulémas (Paris: PUF, 2011).

Dr Paulo Pinto is Professor of Anthropology at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil, where he is also the director of the Center for Middle East Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University. His areas of interest include embodiment and the construction of religious subjectivities, ethnicity and religious nationalism, and pilgrimage processes and the constitution of transnational religious arenas. He has done fieldwork in Syria, mainly in the Sufi communities in Aleppo and in the shrine of Sayda Zaynab, near Damascus, as well as in the in Muslim communities in Brazil. He published several articles on Sufism, Kurdish ethnicity, and Shi'i pilgrimage in contemporary Syria, and is the author of Árabes no Rio de Janeiro: Uma Identidade Plural (Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Cidade Viva, 2010) and Islã: Religião e Civilização, Uma Abordagem Antropológica (Aparecida: Ed. Santuário, 2010).

Kathryn Spellman Poots is Associate Professor at Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations in London and Visiting Associate Professor at Columbia University and Academic Program Director for the MA in Islamic Studies. Her research interests include Muslims in Europe and North America, the Iranian diaspora, transnational migration and gender studies.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in Edinburgh University Press; 1st edition (September 23, 2013), has 208 pages and best sellers rank of 5,137,921 in Books.

The present book promotes a pluralistic use of ethnography in research about Islam in anthropology and the other social sciences.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part One: Performing Rituals;[edit | edit source]

This part of this volume deals with “traditional” subjects of the anthropology of religion, namely rituals and symbols. It examines the effects of the ethnographic approach on the conceptualization and analysis of Islam as a shared cultural idiom in specific social contexts.

1. Black Magic, Divination and Remedial Reproductive Agency in Northern Pakistan, Emma Varley

Using her experiences with women-centered divination as an analytical platform, the author in this chapter examines the social, symbolic and moral economies underlying northern Pakistani women’s perception that sorcery underlies, or contributes to, many reproductive health crises. By illuminating women-centered divination as a corrective ritual, she explicates the interlinkages between sorcery, conflictive gendered sociality, and Gilgiti and Islamic cosmologies.

As this ethnographic case study demonstrates, besides indexing women’s vulnerability to unseen forces, sorcery’s somatic effects localized and called attention to unresolved interpersonal discord. At a primary level, by ascribing their physical symptoms to sorcery, women achieved far-reaching commentary on their insecurities and enmities

2. Preparing for the Hajj in Contemporary Tunisia: Between Religious and Administrative Ritual, Katia Boissevain

In this article which is about the Hajj, the author intends to limit description and discussion to a ritual sequence, referred to in Tunisia as the qar‘a, a term meaning “draw”, a selective procedure of pilgrims which is carefully managed by the State. So, this chapter tries to focus on the preparation of the Hajj in the city of Tunis.

3. 'There Used to Be Terrible Disbelief': Mourning and Social Change in Northern Syria, Katharina Lange

This chapter addresses changing burial and mourning practices in villages of northern Syria. Through a close ethnographic description of actions, practices and discourse related to mourning and burial, this article shows how “Islamic” frameworks are invoked to make sense of changing social practice, and how, in turn, concepts of mourning labelled as Islamic are enacted in everyday life. It also demonstrates how emergent normative concepts understood as “Islamic” are not simply appropriated, but are very much contested in actual practice.

4. Manifestations of Ashura among Young British Shi’is , Kathryn Spellman-Poots

This chapter demonstrates how the ethnographic research method provides a vantage point to describe the ways in which embedded conceptions and practices of the Shi‘i faith are actively being questioned and reoriented by young Shi‘is in British society. It describes some ways that young Shi‘is are reworking religious practices through public performances and embodied experiences in British society. The author in this chapter, aims to show how an ethnographic study of religious events, as they are in action, allows a researcher to take a closer look at the ways in which young Shi‘is are simultaneously engaged in internal conflicts and struggles while actively trying to develop a wider British Shi‘i identity.

5. The Ma'ruf: An Ethnography of Ritual (South Algeria), Yazid Ben Hounet

In this chapter, the author takes an ethnographical approach which articulates the study of practices and the emic (endogenous) significations of these practices to offer some answers to the following questions: what are the meanings of the ma‘ruf ritual? What does the analysis of this ritual suggest concerning “Islamic” practices? Instead of describing the ritual ma‘ruf in a general fashion, he focuses on a precise episode of this ritual, within its own context, in order to understand how people act, interact and build their own singular ritual.

* The ma‘ruf is a type of collective prayer and a Qur‘anic exhortation (amr bi-l-ma‘ruf: commanding right) which takes place after a shared moment like a meal or one of the feasts (wa‘dat, mawsim) that frequently occur in the Saharan Atlas.

6. The Sufi Ritual of the Darb al-Shish and the Ethnography of Religious Experience, Paulo G. Pinto

The author in this chapter focuses the analysis on the processes of construction and communication of religious experiences in the Sufi ritual of the darb al-shish from several periods of fieldwork research among the Sufi communities in Aleppo and its surrounding countryside in northern Syria.

7. Preaching for Converts: Knowledge and Power in the Sunni Community in Rio de Janeiro, Gisele Fonseca Chagas

This chapter focuses on how power relations are constructed and legitimized in the various contexts in which religious knowledge is transmitted and circulated among members of the Sunni Muslim community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In this chapter, the author analyses the practices of teaching, preaching and listening to religious discourses within the Sunni Muslim community of Rio de Janeiro as contexts of interaction in which identities, experiences and power relations are produced, shaped and affirmed.

8. Worshipping the Martyr President: The Darih of Rafiq Hariri in Beirut, Ward Vloerberghs

The tomb (darih) of Rafiq Hariri (Rafiq al-Hariri) is one of two elements that make up the mausoleum of the late Lebanese tycoon-turned-politician. In order to highlight the characteristics of this unique urban feature, this chapter examines both the political and religious aspects of the tomb from an ethnographic perspective. The author explores the darih as a shrine defined by Eickelman as “more than just a building”.

9. Staging the Authority of the Ulama: The Celebration of the Mawlid in Urban Syria, Thomas Pierret

This chapter focuses on other kinds of practices and more particularly on the annual celebration of Muhammad’s birthday (Mawlid) in early twenty-first century Damascus, Syria. The goal of this chapter is to show that ethnography allows us to grasp aspects of the “scholarly” mawalid that generally remain concealed within the discourses produced by social actors.

Part Two: Contextualising Interactions;[edit | edit source]

This part of the book is concerned with interactions that are not religious rituals, but that nevertheless orient themselves and make reference to Islam.

10. The Salafi and the Others: An Ethnography of Intracommunal Relations in French Islam, Cedric Baylocq and Akila Drici-Bechiki

This chapter is divided into three parts. The first part, describes a study of a group of women who “converted” to Salafism in a suburb of Paris. The second part, analyses a split that occurred among Muslims in the south-western city of Bordeaux, when young Salafis left the mosque run by Tareq Oubrou, an imam and self-made scholar affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhoodoriented Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF).

To conclude, the third part provides two short descriptive scenes of interaction involving Salafis and non-Salafis in order to try to further understand the attraction/repulsion between the two groups.

11. Describing Religious Practices among University Students: A Case Study from the University of Jordan, Amman, Daniele Cantini

The author in this chapter believes that ethnographic accounts of how Muslims in the Middle East concretely embody and enact their religious belonging in everyday life is largely missing. So, he aims to show how Jordanian university students represent themselves and their religiosity.

12. Referring to Islam in Mutual Teasing: Notes on an Encounter between Two Tanzanian Revivalists, Sigurd D'hondt

In this chapter, the author examines how two Kiswahili-speaking adolescents negotiate a Muslim identity (or at least, one particular version of such an identity) within the hustle and bustle of a single tape-recorded episode of spontaneous everyday interaction. He uses “revivalism” instead of the more common “fundamentalism”, as the latter does not adequately capture the anti-traditionalist and individualized nature of this reform movement.

13. Salafis as Shaykhs: Othering the Pious in Cairo, Aymon Kreil

The main issue of this chapter is the way non-Salafi Muslims perceive the Salafi trend and its followers. It intends to illuminate how people who are not committed to the movement perceive Salafis.

14. Ethics of Care, Politics of Solidarity: Islamic Charitable Organisations in Turkey, Hilal Alkan-Zeybek

In this article the author follows the analytical differentiation between charity and solidarity which according to Bora, these two ways of fighting poverty share the common characteristic of being dependent on individuals’ benevolence and will to share their wealth with those in need.

15. Making Shari'a Alive: Court Practice under an Ethnographic Lens, Susanne Dahlgren

In this chapter, the author presents a court case litigated in one of the family sections of the Aden Magistrates’ Court, situated in the southern part of the Republic of Yemen.  Her aim is to demonstrate that by applying the ethnographic method in a study of court practice, something new can be discovered in the legal history of a particular country. She tries to demonstrate through her ethnographic observations how a judge in a divorce court attempts to adjudicate Islamic law, sometimes with the help of statutory law and on other occasions by relying on classical Islamic jurisprudence or local customs understood to be in accordance with shari‘a.

16. Referring to Islam as a Practice: Audiences, Relevancies and Language Games within the Egyptian Parliament, Enrique Klaus and Baudouin Dupret

In this chapter, the authors address the question of referring to Islam as a social practice, not in abstract terms, from an overhanging viewpoint, but as it is embedded in members’ routine activities. Hence, the relevance of ethnography in their undertaking, for referring-to-Islam is a situated accomplishment that must be described in context and in action.

17. Contesting Public Images of ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud (1910-78): Who is an Authentic Scholar?, Hatsuki Aishima

This article is largely based on the ethnographic data which the author gathered from her two-year period of fieldwork in Egypt (April 2006–October 2008) where she organised “tutorials” with educated Egyptians who were willing to assist her with reading the books by ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud.

Part Three: The Ethnography of History;[edit | edit source]

This part aims to point to other possible uses of the ethnographic approach, in this case in a dialogue with history.

18. Possessed of Documents: Hybrid Laws and Translated Texts in the Hadhrami Diaspora, Michael Gilsenan

This chapter presents an ethnography of the Hadhrami diaspora in South-east Asia through the claims that their members pose to history.

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