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Afterword: De-exceptionalising Islam

Part of the Muslims in Global Societies Series book series (MGSS,volume 6)

Abstract

Coleman’s afterword provides an over-arching theoretical context that discusses the anthropology of Islam in relation to the anthropology of Christianity, assesses the overall importance of the volume’s main thrust and points to the potential formulation of a shared research agenda.

Keywords

  • Arab World
  • Muslim World
  • Present Volume
  • World Religion
  • Muslim Brotherhood

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We might also ask whether ‘Islam’ needs to be seen as instanciated by those who self-identify as Muslims, but that can be a debate for another time.

  2. 2.

    Though deploying a rather different attitude towards agency.

  3. 3.

    Rasanayagam also points to the resonances between his stance on intelligibility and that of Michael Carrithers, whom he describes as presenting sociality as the innate propensity of human beings to interpret the speech and actions of others as ‘unfolding stories’ (Carrithers 1992). I would also point to the parallels between the more general theoretical orientation of the present volume and Carrithers’s presentation of ‘rhetoric culture’ as perceiving social life as moving through messy and mutual action and reaction, drawing on cultural schemas that are plastic and mutable, the material of constant symbolic play (2008:161–2; see also Coleman forthcoming, in a special issue of Ethnos edited by Andreas Bandak and Jonas Adelin Jørgensen that also reflects on issues of foregrounding and backgrounding in ‘religious’ contexts).

  4. 4.

    Though in invoking scale, we should not always assume that a model of ever greater encompassment is the culturally appropriate one.

  5. 5.

    Marsden points out that Mahmood focuses almost exclusively on what her informants say and do in mosques and at prayer gatherings, rarely, if at all, describing their lives in the workplace, on the street, or even at play (see also Schielke 2010).

  6. 6.

    This is not to say of course, that anthropologists did not study cultural arenas relevant to Christianity before the last few decades, but it is to state that the conscious development of the sub-field is barely a decade old.

  7. 7.

    Two are by Western anthropologists: Islam Observed (Geertz 1971) and Muslim Society (Gellner 1980). Two are by Muslim scholars: Beyond the Veil (Mernissi 1975) and Discovering Islam (Ahmed 1988).

  8. 8.

    Some current anthropological debates make explicit their connections with specific theological debate: in this book, for instance, Simpson refers to the ‘rupture’ inherent in the workings of the patriarchal relations that he studies, but this has very different implications to the use of the term by both anthropologists and others considering the current theoretical significance of Pauline visions of social change to the study of Christian contexts (e.g. Engelke and Robbins 2010). At the same time, it is important to appreciate the changing political economy and institutional landscape of anthropology itself, and to appreciate that new intellectual pathways are being created for the discipline by scholars who would not readily associate themselves with Christian intellectual genealogies.

  9. 9.

    ‘Belief, Participation, Circulation: Challenges in Participation-Observer Fieldwork within Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Christianities’, organizers Jon Bialecki, Robin Shoaps and Henri Gooren, November 19, 2010, AAA Meetings, New Orleans.

  10. 10.

    In his chapter, Retsikas points out yet another problem with a focus on Islamic revival when he questions the widespread assumption in the anthropology of Islam that reformist Islam can somehow be seen as compatible with ‘modernity,’ whereas Sufi practices are relegated to ‘tradition’.

  11. 11.

    http://praxishabitus.blogspot.com/2009/01/muslim-televangelists-inspire-revival.html

  12. 12.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12362826

  13. 13.

    Consider the following quotation from ‘A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Issam al-Aryan’ who is both presenting his political agenda and denying his own organization’s ambitions for the presidency: ‘We want a civil state, based on Islamic principles. A democratic state, with a parliamentary system, with freedom to form parties, press freedom, and an independent and fair judiciary.’

  14. 14.

    For a consideration of the political value of an ‘immanent’ anthropology, see Coleman (2010).

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Coleman, S. (2012). Afterword: De-exceptionalising Islam. In: Marsden, M., Retsikas, K. (eds) Articulating Islam: Anthropological Approaches to Muslim Worlds. Muslims in Global Societies Series, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4267-3_12

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