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Title: The education of American Muslims : knowledge and authority in intensive Islamic learning environments
Author: Kabba, Zainab
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 4912
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This ethnographic study explores the ways in which religious teachers use intensive Islamic learning environments as sites to reshape understandings of Islam amongst American Muslims of Sunni orientation. The absence of longstanding traditional Islamic educational institutions in the United States poses challenges for Muslims looking to learn about Islam beyond parental teachings and Sunday schools. However, a range of innovative transmedial learning environments, bridging offline and online spaces, have emerged in recent decades. This is the first ethnographically informed study of such spaces which attends to the role of knowledge and the multidimensional nature of authority in the education of American Muslims. Using 10 months of fieldwork in Canada, the United States, and Turkey, I draw on and explore narratives of students and teachers, revealing the bodies of knowledge that teachers deem relevant for the development of an American Muslim self and how these teachers situate their authority within a tradition of knowledge transmission. These narratives demonstrate how students seek out certain types of knowledge to develop their religious identities, and the ways teachers respond by selecting and deploying these and other bodies of knowledge in their teaching. Teachers and their associated educational programmes use various pedagogical techniques and accessories to link students to the imagined international Muslim community. This leads to an understanding of how teachers situate their authority within a tradition of knowledge transmission. These teachers ground narratives of self and place within religious and regional histories to define religious practice that is ethical and culturally relevant, and justify their own authority. This research contributes to debates on the challenges of intra-Muslim dialogue in relation to the umma. It is a ground-breaking empirical study illustrating how, despite the tense geopolitics surrounding Islam and Muslims, American Muslim communities in the 21st century sustain Islamic tradition by developing an Islamic pedagogy relevant to its historical roots and contemporary possibilities in a digital age.
Supervisor: Fancourt, Nigel ; Mills, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; islam ; religious authority ; narrative ehtnography ; American Muslims ; authority ; Islamic knowledge ; ethnography ; muslims