Thinking about Islam? Problematizing the Study of Islam and Muslims through Western Paradigms.
A significant but as yet little-expanded line of thought within postcolonial studies points to the manner in which “colonialism ruptures the self-relation of a society through time in such a fundamental way that it becomes difficult to imagine what would be right” – religiously, culturally, philosophically, politically (Kaviraj, 2010). One of the reasons for this rupture, it has been forcefully argued by postcolonial theorists, is the imposition of Western paradigms of thought in colonial times upon subject peoples. As such, thinking about one’s “tradition” in the modern world becomes a fraught exercise; similarly, thinking about “another’s tradition” is always already problematic.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s annual meeting of the AAA, Producing Anthropology, whereby the very theoretical assumptions that go into producing anthropological knowledge are interrogated, this panel examines modes of being Muslim in the modern world that highlight the tensions and entanglements between Western epistemological assumptions and philosophical, legal, and moral imperatives that are derived from the Islamic tradition(s). The panel raises cross-disciplinary questions regarding the theoretical problems attendant in attempting to “think about Islam” outside of Western paradigms of thought. In other words, it begins by asking: Is it even possible (for those of us studying Islam and Muslims) to conceive of Muslims and Islam without becoming entangled in Western power-knowledge structures? What does this mean as far as the production of knowledge regarding Islam and Muslims? And, perhaps more provocatively, what are the implications for the production of “Islamic knowledge” by Muslims, when, given the insights from postcolonial theorists mentioned above, it may be said that there is a significant amount of thinking through Western paradigms of thought? How does this implicate the anthropologist as interpreter/interlocutor? In other words, how does the anthropologist read Islam and Muslims if their “texts” are already inscribed with modern, Western knowledge?
Please send abstracts of 250 words and a one-page CV to Hasan Azad (email@example.com) by April 10, 2014.