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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Comparative Study of Islam: Anthropological Perspectives (B)

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2
The course focuses on an in depth and detailed discussion of three particular issues in three different parts of the Islamic world. Its scope is to highlight diversity both within and across the cases under consideration.

The course is concerned less with theoretical debates within the anthropology of Islam which are mainly covered in ‘The comparative study of Islam- Anthropological perspectives A’, and more with ethnographic complexity, particularity and detail.

It focuses on ethnographic works undertaken in three different settings – Near & Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia- and explores in depth the contemporary place and relevance of Islam with regards to three particular issues - Islam’s relation to the state, Islamic educational institutions and practices, and discourses and practices of gender. The course draws on available regional expertise within the department of anthropology and sociology, and is delivered by three different lecturers.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The course builds upon and advances ethnographically the key concerns of ‘The comparative study of Islam: anthropological perspectives A’. Both courses share the same broad objectives, i.e. ‘to familiarise students with an increasingly diverse range of conceptual approaches taken by anthropologists to the study of Islam’, emphasising ‘the diversity of ways of being Muslim found in Muslim-majority states and Muslim communities’ and exploring ‘the varying ways in which these contribute to the vitality and complexity of Islam’s place in the contemporary world’.

In terms of learning outcomes, it is expected that, at the end of the course, students will have acquired a sense of the diversity and the complexity of Islamic cultures and societies and the ability to engage with questions such as those above both critically and constructively.


I hour Lecture per week I hour Seminar/tutorials per week

Scope and syllabus

Questions the course is asking include the following: 

  • What is it to be a woman or a man in different parts of the Islamic world? 
  • In what ways do projects of social reform, including action in gendered spheres, articulate with the sphere of religion? 
  • What are the key institutions and practices that support and maintain religious learning? 
  • Who are Islam’s esteemed men (and women) of learning? 
  • What sort of regional, national, and trans-national networks are in place that facilitate the flow of religious knowledge? 
  • What kinds of entanglements characterise the relation of Muslim organisations and the state in different parts of the Islamic world? 
  • What are the forms that Muslim politics takes and what accounts for their multiplicity? 
  • How do Muslim politics differ between states where Muslims are a majority and those where they are a minority community? 
  • Can we delineate a specifically Muslim notion of ‘public sphere’?

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 80%. Coursework will count for 20% towards the final mark.

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