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Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

Hem Borker

Published in print August 2018 | ISBN: 9780199484225
Published online July 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780199097708 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199484225.001.0001
Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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This ethnography provides a theoretically informed account of the educational journeys of students in girls’ madrasas in India. It focuses on the unfolding of young women’s lives as they journey from home to madrasa and beyond. Using a series of ethnographic portraits and bringing together the analytical concepts of community, piety, and aspiration, it highlights the fluidity of the essences of the ideal pious Muslim woman. It illustrates how the madrasa becomes a site where the ideals of Islamic womanhood are negotiated in everyday life. At one level, girls value and adopt practices taught in the madrasa as essential to the practice of piety (amal). At another level, there is a more tactical aspect to cultivating one’s identity as a madrasa-educated Muslim girl. The girls invoke the virtues of safety, modesty, and piety learnt in the madrasa to reconfigure conventional social expectations around marriage, education, and employment. This becomes more apparent in the choices exercised by the girls after leaving the madrasa, highlighted in this book through narratives of madrasa alumni pursuing higher education at a central university in Delhi. The focus on journeys of girls over a period of time, in different contexts, complicates the idealized and coherent notions of piety presented by anthropological literature on women’s participation in Islamic piety projects. Further, the educational stories of girls challenge the media and public representations of madrasas in India, which tend to caricature them as outmoded religious institutions with little relevance to the educational needs of modernizing India. Mapping madrasa students’ personal journeys of becoming educated while leading pious lives allows us to see how these young women are reconfiguring notions of Islamic womanhood.

Keywords: Madrasas; gender; ethnography; Muslim; education; India; everyday; piety; aspirations; community; portraits; Islam

Book.  352 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Race and Ethnicity ; Sociology of Religion

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Situating Madrasa Education for Girls in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Journeys of Madrasa Students in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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In-between Spaces in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Making of <i>Kamil Momina</i> in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Becoming a <i>Kamil Momina</i> in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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From Madrasa to University in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Conclusion in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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Coda in Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood

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