This talk explores the analytical opportunities afforded by a methodological focus on genre and what Talal Asad calls “the sensible body” for critically examining the Islamic discursive tradition in colonial India. To deploy a trans-genre approach to “Muslim traditionalism” and its rich textual sources allows us to deepen our understanding of well-studied themes, such as reform, religious authority, and community. It also gives us a means by which to draw attention to the relevance of less-studied themes, especially everyday ethics, desire, and sexual difference. This intervention raises the questions: How do the practice and interpretation of Islam change across genres? How do the textual representations of ordinary life reveal Muslims’ ethical concerns and aesthetic sensibilities, and thus their mode of engagement with the so-called “Islamic discursive tradition”? How do norms and values change between physical and textual spaces? And how do genre-based discursive and institutional practices change across time and space?
Ali Altaf Mian is Assistant Professor of Religion and Izzat Hasan Sheikh Fellow in Islamic Studies at the University of Florida. His research interests include Islam in South Asia, gender and sexuality in modern Islam, and Islamic law and ethics.
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