To continue the series on my PhD project, this post presents my heuristic framework and outlines what I mean by identity, belonging, and religious belonging. In fact, a fair junk of my interest in this project is theoretical (or conceptual, if you hate theory)... In two weeks, I shall add an overview of my methodology, and after that an introduction to my chosen field site: Lucknow. By then, the research visa should be issued, too - and more exciting stories form the field can be told...

Apart from this post on my conceptual framework, there are:
An introductory post to my topic
Another post on my methodological approach
Finally a post on why I chose Lucknow as a fieldsite

Every Indian knows whether he or she is a Muslim or not. But what it probably means to be one, in which contexts one chooses to identify oneself that way and whether being Muslim is one's sole religious identity remain very open questions. These questions constitute the core of my PhD project on Muslim belonging in contemporary Lucknow, and they are introduced in today's post.

Apart from this introductory post on my topic, there are:
A post on my conceptual framework
Another post on my methodological approach
Finally a post on why I chose Lucknow as a fieldsite

What puzzles me ever since I did my research among Muslim peace activists in Gujarat (and probably since long before, but that's another story) is how discursive attempts to delimit the substantive content, contextual relevance or exclusive status of Muslimness are taken up, digested, and at times resisted by individual Muslims. The ambivalences and ambiguities that shape Muslims' relations to other Muslims and to the numinous arguably depend on both discursive resources and personal experiences - but the latter rarely attract as much attention as the former. I thus not only want to understand how these two levels interact, but more specifically how processes of navigation and digestation of discourses work, in which social fields they take place and which various shapes they might take on the level of individual biographies.

The other day, I had a rather heated dispute about the usefulness of "the everyday" as a focus of anthropological enquiry. It felt exactly like a conversation two weeks ago, and quite similar to another one the weeks before that. Anthropologists who don't consider the everyday a particularly useful category (like me) seem to become an exception in the discipline. And I honestly wonder why...

Of course, anthropologists' emphasis on long-term field exposure, on "going native and livin' their life" might have led to this fascination with "the everyday". Increasing attention to ordinary people and their histories, practices and voices rather than merely reinforcing perspectives of the powerful might be another reason (even though I wonder why whe should think that ordinary people somehow live more in "the everyday"). Yet these two factors have been there ever since Malinowski (and the Subaltern Studies Group, respectively). They can not explain why "the everyday" is on the rise now, as evinced in all frequency indicators which I found - be it according to crowd-sourced Mendeley tags or according to the more established Social Science Citation Index (whose results are reflected in the chart to the right, which shows the number anthropological articles with the topic "everyday" over time).