Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar. Debating Daʿwa: Theologies of Mediation in the Egyptian Islamic Revival

Yasmin Moll, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, U-M

Moll workshop Moll workshop
What makes media “Islamic”? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Islamic television producers in Cairo, this paper looks at the passionate contention within Egypt’s piety movement over the development of new forms of religious media. I suggest that at stake in these mass-mediated debates over daʿwa (Islamic outreach) are conflicting theologies of both religious publicity and everyday life that configure the boundaries of the “religious” and the “secular” differently. This God-talk matters a great deal to Islamic Revivalists who spend more time debunking each other than they do secularists. Attending to these internal critiques foregrounds the contradictory moral conceptions of human flourishing and divine obligation that animate Egypt’s Islamic Revival. Indeed, focusing on the piety movement’s internal fractures as God-talk allows for an ethnographic engagement with how Muslim adepts critique religious difference—and the difference that religious critique makes—beyond the imperatives of secular power even while troubling both the “secular” and the “religious” as analytical categories.

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