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Islamic Ethnographies

Describing Religious Practices in the Muslim World

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Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 by Raphaëlle Daudé


Appel à contribution pour un workshop (dont le lieu et la date ne sont pas encore fixés) visant à préparer la rédaction d'un ouvrage collectif sur le thème "Ethnographies islamiques". Il s'agit d'étudir les pratiques religieuses musulmanes par le biais de la méthode ethnographique, c'est-à-dire de la description de données empiriques collectées par le biais de l'observation en contexte. Au-delà de ce socle commun, le projet se veut pluraliste en termes d'approches théoriques, de disciplines et d'objets étudiés. Il n'est donc nullement limité aux anthropologues ni aux pratiques religieuses musulmanes traditionnellement privilégiées par leur discipline (confréries soufies, Islam "populaire", etc...). Des contributions portant sur des questions telles que l'enseignement religieux, les oulémas et intellectuels, les pratiques juridiques, les médias, l'économie ou la politique sont donc les bienvenues.


Call for paper – Workshop and edited volume

Islamic Ethnographies

Describing Religious Practices in the Muslim World

In the last three decades social sciences in general and anthropology in particular developed an ambiguous relation with their descriptive traditions, as epistemic relativism and self-defeating critique lead scholars to reflexive deadlocks and fruitless glosses. Without advocating any return to positivism, we contend that social sciences should pay closer attention to actual practices enfolding within the social world and adopt a more empirical and analytical attitude vis-à-vis their object of scrutiny. It holds especially true when religious phenomena are concerned. Instead of attempting at describing the social world as it enfolds when empirically observed, most anthropological studies confine within a glossing attitude that looses its object and proposes in its place new narratives devoid of the contextual and praxiological specificities of any actual situation. This is probably due to a theorizing attitude that looks for big explicative schemes and neglects the situational and self-producing capacity of the social to produce its own endogenous order.

This workshop, which is planned in May 2009 in a still indeterminate place, and the subsequent edited volume aim to explore the contribution of the ethnographic method for the comprehension of religious phenomena linked to Islam in various social and cultural contexts. Ethnographic fielwork was consecrated as a research method by anthropology, but it has also been adopted by other academic disciplines – such as sociology and political science – in the last three decades. The importance of the ethnographic method raised as social sciences gradually shifted their focus from the structural organization of social systems to the role of the people in producing and reproducing social processes through their everyday practices.

The ethnographic method allows the researcher to describe the complex ways in which people orient to normative codes, material, corporal and social constraints, and intentional strategies that inform their social practices. This is particularly important for the understanding of religious phenomena, for the ethnographic approach allows to better catch how people attach and belong to religious communities and how religious subjectification affects cultural and individual practices. Thus, we consider that a reflection about the contribution of the ethnographic method to the understanding of Islam in its many forms can provide a methodological framework for a more complex and pluralistic understanding of these phenomena.

We call for proposals concentrating on Islamic religious practices, considered in their own right, in a descriptive manner. Visual documentation is welcome. No particular affiliation to any specific school of thought will be asked from the contributors, but only a commitment to the production and detailed analysis of an empirical material devoid of the ex-post-facto character of interviews. It means that the close description of a variety of phenomena related to Islam one way or another will be favoured, beginning with classical objects of anthropology like religious rituals, institutions and ceremonies. However, while classical Islamic ethnographies mostly focused on “popular Islam” and left the study of its “scholarly” forms to text-based disciplines such as Islamology and History, this project should include contributions on topics such as Muslim scholars, intellectuals, religious teaching and legal practices. We also aim to show that the ethnographic method can be useful to fields of study which are not usually associated with it. Consequently, authors are encouraged to submit proposals concerning less expected topics like ordinary conversations, media productions, economics and politics. We especially welcome the collaboration of non-anthropologists who turned to ethnography due to the shortcomings of more familiar techniques such as press reviews and interviews.

People who want to participate in the project are required to send a one-page abstract describing the theme of their contribution and the methodology that will be used.

Deadline: 31 January 2008

The abstract and a short CV should be sent to:

  • Baudouin Dupret (CNRS, Institut des Sciences Sociales du Politique (ISP), Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, France) : dupret@link.net
  • Paulo Pinto (Departement of Anthropology/Center for Middle east Studies, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil) : philu99@hotmail.com
  • Thomas Pierret (FNRS – Université de Louvain, Belgique – IEP-Paris) : thomaspierret@yahoo.fr


  • Thursday, January 31, 2008

Attached files


  • Islam, pratiques religieuses, ethnographie


  • Thomas Pierret
    courriel : thomaspierret [at] yahoo [dot] fr
  • Baudouin Dupret
    courriel : baudouindupret [at] compaqnet [dot] be
  • Paulo Pinto
    courriel : philu99 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Thomas Pierret
    courriel : thomaspierret [at] yahoo [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Islamic Ethnographies », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2007, https://calenda.org/193952

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