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Title: Essentializing Muslim Identity
Authors: Abdoch, Rami A.
Keywords: Honors papers;Anthropology and Sociology, Department of;Student research
Issue Date: May-2011
Publisher: Memphis, Tenn. : Rhodes College
Abstract: The subject of Islam and Muslims has been thrust into the global spotlight by recent geopolitical events and media attention. This has illustrated the phenomenon of essentialism as it relates to understanding Muslim identity in a number of contexts. Essentialism is the act of naming or defining someone/something in absolute terms according to one‟s limited understanding of the other. Ultimately, essentialism is problematic because it is interpretively violent and stifles dialogue before it can even take place. How does essentialism affect dialogue across the “Us-Them” or “West-Islam” binaries? How is essentialism related to Orientalism? In what ways do all of these considerations bear on the structure of Muslim identity at the conscious and unconscious levels? Such questions are what drive this research. This exploratory analysis is informed by the theoretical work of Max Weber, Hans Georg-Gadamer, and Amartya Sen. In-depth interviews conducted with Muslims in Memphis highlight key ways in which Muslims understand themselves and how they think they are understood by others. The findings from this study suggest that the tendency to essentialize Islam and Muslims can be attributed in part to a lack of shared experience between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Description: Rami Abdoch granted permission for the digitization of this paper. It was submitted by CD.
Appears in Collections:Honors Papers

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