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U797  Comparative Study of Muslin Societies of Central Asia and the Middle East:  Representations of Islam and Muslims in Anthropological Literature

Catalog number CEUS-U 797

Nazif Shahrani


The main focus of the seminar will be on the representations of Islam and Muslims in the ethnographic/historical literature of the Middle East and former Soviet Central Asia. The latest edition of  Orientalism  by Edward Said and a selection of ethnographies by Western and native authors will be read and critically discussed in light of some recent critiques of the nature, purpose and direction of traditional practices in the social sciences.  The central aim of the seminar is to explore relationships between ethnographers (producers) and their ethnographic representations (products) of the Muslim peoples and cultures they study.  In particular the significance of place (of ethnographers culture of orientation, of education and graduate training, of employment, of research and fieldwork), gender, and voice (e.g. speaking of or for people studied, institutions funding the research, and governments and agencies supporting the research efforts) within the broader sociopolitical and intellectual environment, and their impact upon the ethnographic accounts will be examined and assessed.   

Required Readings (some title may vary):

E. Said Orientalism (1978, with a new Preface in 2003) 

S. Altorki &  C. El-Solh     Arab Women in the Filed: Studying Your Own Society  (1988)

F. E, Peters      A Reader on Classical Islam  (1994)

R. Loeffler        Islam in Practice: Religious Belief in a Persian Village  (1988)

R. Antoun         Muslim Preacher in the Modern World: A Jordanian Case Study in Comparative perspective  (1989

D. Edwards      Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier (1996)

Bruce Privratsky           Muslim Turkistan: Kazak Religion and Collective Memory (2001)

Roald Sagdeev & S Eisenhower, eds    Islam in Central Asia: An Enduring Legacy or an Evolving Threat? (2002)

James Spickard, et al. Eds.,      Personal Knowledge and Beyond: Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion (2002)

Pnina Werbner Pilgrims of Love: The Anthropology of Global Sufi Cult (2003)

Course Requirements:

A critical written report of the reading assignments for each week (about 2-3 double spaced typewritten pages) highlighting the most significant points (positive and negative) about the authors' approach in the text(s).   Students are also expected to actively participate in class discussions, lead class discussions, make an oral presentation of the term project, and submit a term paper on the term project.  The term project will consist of a review essay consisting of: 1) critical reading, detailed assessment and synthesis of all required readings for the seminar; and 2) serious and reasoned reflection on how the theoretical, conceptual, methodological and substantive issues covered in this seminar will (or will not) be useful to your own specific topics or fields of research interests and why?  The final essay should be about 20 typed pages (double-spaced) and due on the last day of class.