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.

This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia © Taylor & Francis; see publisher's version and entry in my publication list. The book itself is here

Islamism and democracy in India: the transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, by Irfan Ahmad, Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 2009, xx + 306 pp., ISBN 978-0-691-13920-3

How did the secular and democratic polity in India change the politics and policies of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party founded to oppose both principles? This question inspired Irfan Ahmad to close the gap between Nasr's 'The vanguard of the Islamic revolution' (on Pakistan; London: IB Tauris, 1994) and Kabir's 'The politics and development of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh' (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 2006) with a comprehensive monograph on 'Islamism and democracy in India'. He detects a 'remarkable transformation of Islamism' and highlights 'the conflicts that accompanied that transformation' (p. xi): while the Jamaat itself turned towards secular democracy, the turmoil of mandir, mandal and market (Hindu nationalism, reservation policies and liberalization) later radicalized its split-off, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Since he further argues that the former transformation 'is deeply ideological' (p. 2) rather than a tactical guise, his research suggests nothing less than a solid appropriation of secular democracy by India's Islamists (pp. 8-9).

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 117 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

R. Michael Feener, Terenjit Sevea (Hg.): Islamic Connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia

Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009, 245 S., USD 39,90

Seit einigen Jahren wächst das Interesse an subregionalen Vergleichen zwischen Südasien und Südostasien sowie an transnationalen Netzwerken rund um den indischen Ozean. Der vorliegende Sammelband fasst in diesem Kontext erste Ergebnisse des "Islamic Connections Project" zusammen, das seit 2007 am ISEAS in Singapur angesiedelt ist. Die Herausgeber, beide Historiker und Islamwissenschaftler, wollen dabei nicht nur die vermeintliche Dominanz des Nahen Osten als zentralem normativem Bezugspunkt muslimischer Gesellschaften hinterfragen. In 12 Kapiteln versuchen die verschiedenen Autoren darüber hinaus, das noch grundlegendere Narrativ einer Islamisierung von West nach Ost - also von der arabischen Halbinsel nach Indien nach Südostasien - durch ein dezentrales Netzwerk-Modell zu ersetzen.