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Introduction

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

Abstract

The introduction critically summarises key developments in the anthropology of Islam and other world religions in recent years and develops a new and clear theoretical approach. It is based around the employment of the concepts of systematicity and articulation, and proceeds by means of their theoretical elaboration and ethnographic exposition.

Keywords

  • Religious Tradition
  • Muslim World
  • World Religion
  • Islamic Teaching
  • Islamic Tradition

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    On the nature of stereotypes of Muslims today, see Morey and Yaqin (2011). For anthropological approaches to Islamophobia, see Shryock (2010), Bunzl (2007), and Verkaaik (2010).

  2. 2.

    See, for example, Marranci (2008), and Varisco (2005).

  3. 3.

    A growing body of work, moreover, questions the cross-cultural value of the category ‘belief’ for understanding religion, see for example Coleman and Lindquist (2008), Englund (2007), Engelke (2007), and Ruel (1997).

  4. 4.

    For recent overviews see Soares and Osella (2009).

  5. 5.

    We would like to thank one of the Springer reviewers for helping us to develop this point.

  6. 6.

    Cannell (2006) explains anthropology’s neglect of Christianity as related to their historic proximity, stressing that many of the discipline’s key concepts for studying religion have Christian roots and are, thus, ill-suited for the study of Christianity itself.

  7. 7.

    On which see Williams (1995). Compare Laidlaw (2010).

  8. 8.

    For summaries of these debates and their history, see Bowen (1998), and Osella (2008).

  9. 9.

    We chose this dimension given the amount of attention – theoretical and ethnographic – it has received in recent work. See, for example, Mazarella (2004). Compare Meyer and Moors (2005), and Hirschkind and Larkin (2008).

  10. 10.

    Here we would bring about the importance of work that recognises dangers not only with the clash of civilisations (Huntington 1996) argument, but also the supposed synthesis or mixing of such civilisations. For a critique of the use of the category ‘syncretism’ in sociological and historical work on South Asia see Mir (2006).

  11. 11.

    Iqtidar’s work builds on an expansive body of writing concerned with the ways in which secular states and political entities have sought to fashion the nature of the domain of the religious in a variety of different Muslim contexts (Asad 1993; Al Ali 2000; Jalal 1991; Mahmood 2004, 2006; Mamdani 2004; Osella and Osella 2009; Özyürek 2006; Rudnyckyj 2009; Tuğal 2009; Zubaida 2008).

  12. 12.

    For comparable debates in relationship to the study of Buddhism see Southwold (1983), and Gombrich and Obyesekere (1988).

  13. 13.

    Our simplified presentation of Deleuze and Guattari’s work relies on a pragmatic and selective approach as it is impossible to do justice to the full complexity of their multi-stranded theory (1983, 1987). In separate writings, Deleuze has developed further the philosophical concerns summarised here; yet he has done so while changing his terminology in every one of his books. However, DeLanda, Deleuze’s foremost exegete to an audience of both social scientists (2009a) and analytical philosophers of science (2009b), stresses the point that Deleuze’s terminological exuberance is a well calibrated attempt towards the development of ‘a set of different theories on the same subject’ (2009b: 202; emphasis in the original). As such, this exuberance serves to uphold Deleuze’s core philosophical stance which is to lay out a philosophy of difference that avoids reducing difference to identity. The potential this stance has unleashed in the social sciences has been recently explored in two edited volumes (see Fuglsand and Sørensen 2006; Jensen and Rødje 2010) and an ethnographic monograph (Retsikas 2012).

  14. 14.

    Where Deleuze and Guattari begin from outlining a vital flux as the very condition of life in general, we take Islam to be an immanent dimension in the lives and deeds of peoples of Muslim background in the sense of always already being there, giving shape and being shaped by all aspects of everyday life from the minutiae of eating, sleeping, and working all the way to overt public concerns over the role of the nation-state or the forms the economy takes. We also take the view that this immanence rather than corresponding to an essence Islam has in and of itself and which, thus, forms the central preoccupation of the theologian, or to a ‘thing’ such as a text or a belief that is the explicit concern of the religious studies expert, is more productively explored from a social anthropological standpoint as a set of empirical processes. The processes in question are intimately linked with the ways in which Islam is both evinced and eclipsed as of central or lesser importance in ethnographically concrete yet culturally varied contexts and circumstances.

  15. 15.

    The philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari endows such unstable aggregates with parts that are non-determined, self-subsistent and linked by what DeLanda calls ‘relations of exteriority, so that a part may be detached from it and become plugged into a different assemblage in which its interactions are different’ (2009a: 10).

  16. 16.

    For a particular astute critique of the tendency of scholar to categorize Muslims in relation to belief see Simpson (2007).

  17. 17.

    For more nuanced treatments of this issue see Hammoudi (1997), and Kandyioti (1988).

  18. 18.

    The point is made with particular reference to Africa by Soares (2000) and Central Asia by Khalid (2007).

  19. 19.

    Such processes are especially visible, for instance, in the form of religion and preaching advocated by the Turkish religious educational organisation Fatehe Gulen.

  20. 20.

    The difference between the emphasis we place on the importance of historicizing contemporary forms of Islam and Muslim life as well as recognising its capacity to intersect with modern transformations are very different from the importance Timur Kuran places on this (Kuran 2010).

  21. 21.

    Matthew Carey’s chapter in this book also notes a similar absence of debate in a Berber society in High Atlas Morocco, although the absence of debate in this setting pertains only to Islam’s relationship to the domain of politics.

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Marsden, M., Retsikas, K. (2012). Introduction. 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_1

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