Notes on the anthropological study of Islam and Muslim societies in Africa

TitleNotes on the anthropological study of Islam and Muslim societies in Africa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsB.F. Soares
Secondary TitleCulture and Religion
Pagination277 - 285
Date Published2004///
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, anthropological research, history, Islam, Mali

In this paper, the author considers the interpretation of and the ethnographic production about Islam and Muslim societies, particularly in Africa. The Orientalist 'doctrine' of an unchanging and timeless Islam has long been shown to be inadequate for understanding the obvious diversity and complexity within and between Muslim societies. However, the limitations of certain anthropolocial studies - notably, their almost exclusive focus on local context and cultures to which they sometimes attribute different 'Islams' (e.g. African Islam) - have not been critically examined to the same degree. The author argues that one must study Islam as a discursive tradition at the intersection of the local and the supralocal, including broader scriptural traditions of Islam. Drawing on ethnographic and historical research on Islamic law in West Africa, the author shows how Muslims in Mali participate in the supralocal discourses of Islam and some of the ways in which local and regional history and culture shape their participation in these discourses. [Journal abstract]


Bibliogr.: p. 284-285. - Met noten, samenvatting - Overdr. uit: Culture and religion ; vol. 1, no. 2, 2000, p. 277-285

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