This collection gathers together five articles previously published in Cultural Anthropology, by Naveeda Khan, Hayder Al-Mohammad, Carolyn Rouse and Janet Hoskins, Kenneth George, and Arzoo Osanloo. The collection also includes interviews with the authors, who reflect on their work, as well a commentary on the whole collection from Charles Hirschkind. The articles engage with everyday aspects of living, negotiating, and constructing the world among contemporary Muslims. Moving beyond a focus on the aesthetics of dress, gender relations, or the text in Islam, the collection crosses national boundaries and thematic areas, touching on the immense diversity of nations, peoples, languages, and ideas that fall under the category of Islam. A broad array of ethnographic material is included in the collection: gathering to eat soul food in Los Angeles, navigating a kidnapping in post-invasion Iraq, a child’s relationship to a jinn (spirit/ghost) during sectarian violence in Karachi, discourses around justice in media and conversation surrounding a young man’s death sentence in Iran, and debates about the production of Islamic art in Indonesia.
This curated collection emerges out of a growing interest in the everyday in anthropology in the last decade and points towards emergent work in the anthropology of religion. The articles all, in some way, invoke the everyday as an analytical concept—following on the work of Veena Das (2006), Kathleen Stewart (2007), and others—and explore how the ordinary shapes discourses on violence, politics, and piety. Al-Mohammad’s (2012, 600) positioning of the term as a “methodological orientation,” rather than a concept, best captures its use for re-orienting conversations around precarity, danger, and violence. Veena Das (2006) argues for the everyday as an analytic concept in her scholarship on communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in Delhi, and demonstrates how an analysis of the mundane can provide insight into the openings when spectacular events occur. Applied in the anthropology of Islam, the everyday opens up conceptual space to help dismantle popular misconceptions and prejudices. In Ordinary Affects, Kathleen Stewart (2007) also argues for a methodology that takes the fragmented experiences of the everyday as a way to understand subjectivity but also to explain the economic and the political. Perspectives from this collection are useful for thinking about the anthropology of religion as well as anthropology more broadly: what politics undergird the everyday? The everyday, as Al-Mohammad (in this collection) says, perhaps allows us to put theory aside—for a moment—as a way of separating discourses from the empirical. However, Hirschkind’s (in this collection) also argues that the everyday approach is rooted in the politics of the secular.
Cultural Anthropology has previously published articles on topics of gender, piety, media, and politics and Islam. See, for example, Anne Meneley’s "Fashions and Fundamentalism in Fin-de-Diecle Yemen: Chador Barbie and Islamic Socks," Katherine Pratt Ewing’s "Between Cinema and Social Work: Diasporic Turkish Women and the (Dis)Pleasures of Hybridity," and Charles Hirshkind’s "Civic Virtue and Religious Reason: An Islamic Counterpublic." The journal has also published articles that think with the concept of the everyday in other thematic areas including Clara Han’s "Symptoms of Another Life: Time, Possibility, and Domestic Relations in Chile’s Credit Economy," and Sarah Pinto’s "Development without Institutions: Ersatz Medicine and the Politics of Everyday Life in Rural Northern India."
I am very excited to present this new curated collection and I thank the authors for their time and support of the project.
Das, Veena. 2006. Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Al-Mohammad, Hayder. 2012. “A Kidnapping in Basra: The Struggles and Precariousness of Life in Postinvasion Iraq.” Cultural Anthropology 27, no. 4: 597–614.
Stewart, Kathleen. 2007. Ordinary Affects. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.