Merchants, 'saints' and sailors : the social production of Islamic reform in a port town in western India
This thesis analyses Islamic reform as a social process interwoven with apprenticeship, work and learning in shipyards in the port of Mandvi in western India. Those owning shipyards and the ships built in them are engaged in active campaigns of Islamic reform and proselytisation in the town that are intimately related to trade routes and their experiences overseas, especially in the ports of the Gulf States. Assuming that religious reform movements are defined by what they oppose as well as by what they represent the thesis presents an analysis of rhetorical, daily and occasionally violent opposition to Hindus and other Muslims in an ethnographic exploration of David Hume's 'flux and reflux' hypothesis. These oppositions it is argued are products of the historically contextualised biographies of those who patronise the reform process, rather than a random expression of religious identity. The thesis contrasts the social organisation and economic engagements of ship owners with Hindus and other Muslims in order to demonstrate the socially meaningful nature of communal antagonism in the process of religious reform. This exercise is conducted through an exploration of varying conceptions of ethnicity, race, social segmentation, migration, nationalism and diaspora. The ethnography of shipbuilding, skill acquisition and hierarchy, in the workplace demonstrates that apprenticeship and the division of labour that surrounds it reproduce a reformed social and religious order. This involves a discussion of issues that relate local Islamic social and ideological practices to wider geographical and doctrinal perspectives. Throughout the thesis runs a concern with the role of charismatic leaders and their constituents which, it is concluded, points to the fact that Islamic reform movements more generally contain within them the potential to reproduce the same social and religious orders they oppose.