Journal article / Sunni Islamic Traditionalism in Kerala Since the 1980s

Visakh, M. S., R. Santhosh, and C. K. Mohammed Roshan. Islamic Traditionalism in a Globalizing World: Sunni Muslim Identity in Kerala, South India. Modern Asian Studies. Published ahead of print, 1 February 2021.

Abstract: In our ethnography among traditionalist Sunni Muslims of Kerala, we observe the emergence of new intellectual critiques of Islamic reformism and a revival of ‘traditional’ Islamic articulations.

A new class of traditionalist Sunni ulama, claiming to be ‘turbaned professionals’, plays an instrumental role in providing epistemic sanctioning to ‘traditional’ Islamic piety while simultaneously grounding it within the discourses and processes of neoliberal developmentalism.

Such assertions of traditionalist Sunni Muslim identity challenge the conventional understanding of Islamic reformism as a hallmark of the progressive understanding of faith and traditionalism as its ‘anti-modern’ other.

The article argues that this discursive shift of Sunni Islamic traditionalism in Kerala since the 1980s from defensive to more assertive forms has to be located in the context of wider socio-economic change within the community facilitated by structural as well as cultural forces of globalisation.

We point out that this process traverses the local, national, and global scales of identification, and results in intense negotiations between local identifications and ‘true Islamicate global imaginations’.
These negotiations bring in new discourses around the question of ‘authentic’ Islamic practices and sensibilities among the traditionalist Sunni Muslims, forcing us to locate the question of their identity formation beyond the boundaries of communities and the nation-states that ensconce them.
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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup

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