Reviews

This dissertation research was carried out in 2003 among attendants of a Qur’anic course in Moscow.  It explores the specific participation of different generations of Tatar women in Muslim identity formation within and around new public “Islamically” defined spaces.  These are free of charge courses which take place normally in the evening or during weekends, and consist mainly in Qur’an reading and teachings on the Sunna.  This form of Islamic learning, called in Moscow madrasa or mekteb, has emerged since the late 1980s in Russia’s capital.  Volga Tatars as “northern” Muslims are usually distinguished by observers and scholars as significantly secularised, despite the strong mutual identification of their ethnic and confessional, “Tatar” and “Muslim” identities during the last three centuries.  For a majority of them, Moscow’s mosques are above all a place for “ethnic” gathering where people (the preacher included) should speak Tatar language, meet village-mates, buy Tatar music, etc.  Based first, as beforehand, on family circles with their own network of self-educated experts, the identification with Islam (whether conventional or “traditional”) remains, as during the Soviet period, private and non-visible for the public as a “belief in the soul”.  At the same time, urban mosques also become a new space for the creation of a specifically Muslim narrative (as a place of performance of “Islamic activism”).  The de-construction of biographical narratives opens perspectives for the study of a new public, defined as Islamic narrative spaces in a specific urban environment.  The narrative work serves for self-positioning in response to the narratives of gender regimes’ disproportions, ethnic difference actualisation and negative perceptions of Islam.  The individualised way of perception and adaptation of taught Islamic patterns by various generations of women contributes to the formation of moral communities based on different interpretations of Islamic knowledge.  One can observe differences between elderly women oriented towards the reproduction of traditional patterns of learning, and younger Muslim women tended to fellow a now ‘globalised’ Muslimness (including the wearing of the headscarf, which is not widespread among Tatars).  The articulation of ethnicity and Muslimness as a part of a quest for identity is a means for creating biographical narratives through the construction of an individualised way of self-presentation after the dissolution of indoctrinated standardised biography of the “non-religious” and “non-ethnic” Soviet (wo)man.

The Redaction
CER: I-7.2-618