Please join us on Thursday, May 24, for a public lecture by Tanzeen R. Doha
This paper offers an alternative reading of Saba Mahmood’s ethnographic corpus and the Anthropology of Islam literature more broadly. Through an ethnographic examination of encounters between ex-Maoists, cadres of Jamaat-e-Islami, and students of Qawmi madrassa, and engagement with 20th century Islamist thought, it describes the varied and ambiguous ways Islamists depart from and build upon Mahmood’s works. Unlike her close readers - mainly academics and her peers - Mahmood’s work on Islam and the secular gives rise to an entirely different set of concerns for Islamic practitioners within the Deoband tradition, whom I call her “distant readers.” For these readers, Mahmood’s death has occasioned a de-authoring of her texts, and released them for a new negotiation. Turning away from concerns related to subjects, texts, and practices, they seek a paradigmatic reversal in the relation between Islam and anthropology. In other words, instead of approaching Islam as anthropology’s object of inquiry, they ask: How does Islam itself read the world? Might a Qur’anic system of classification more adequately analyze the world of non-Islam? What would an anthropology of kufr ul-i’rad, kufr ul-istibal, fasiqun, or munafiqun look like? And what would it mean to bring such an anthropology in conversation with the ethnographic study of secularism?
Tanzeen Rashed Doha is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. In his ethnographic work, he puts the Anthropology of Islam literature in conversation with Frantz Fanon’s sociogenic reading of psychoanalysis, which he then explicates through 20th century Islamist thought. Doha is also the general editor of the independent journal Milestones: Commentary on the Islamic World.