Without a Profession: The Politics of Being and Becoming and American Imam
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Khalil, Nancy A.
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CitationKhalil, Nancy A. 2017. Without a Profession: The Politics of Being and Becoming and American Imam. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractMy dissertation, Without a Profession: The Politics of Being and Becoming an American Imam, examines Muslim religious clerics (imams) in the United States during a tumultuous era. Current and recent history has seen intense struggle over the essence of Islam and its sources of authority, and increasing national tensions over national religion and the idea of an “American Islam.” In the chapters below, I integrate scholarship on authority, theology, and religious freedom to illuminate the contested figure of the imam in America, as well as the way the struggle among various stakeholders, including Muslims, politicians, and law enforcement, is shaping the profession. Central to my work on imams is an inquiry into how religion is built, who contributes to a national religious construction, and what are the local and international implications on principles like religious freedom. My work is based on over three years of qualitative research. Analyzing the results of participant observation, hundreds of interviews, and site visits to aspiring Islamic seminaries across the country, I examine how efforts to shape the profession and mold the figure of the imam in America are inherently intertwined with various government arms including federal law enforcement, state authorizing boards, and foreign policies. I argue that ministry is a necessary path to nationalizing a faith, and its regulation complicates our understanding of religious freedom. The increasing emergence of Islamic seminaries contributes to defining the borders of other authoritative professions such as that of scholar or jurist, narrowing, by professional elimination, the occupational expectations and understanding held by the public of the American imam. My dissertation examines the lives of American imams to show how the profession in the US is forming at a junction of three influences: government regulations impacting ministers, American pastoral norms, and Muslim scholarly tradition to affirm a(n often mutually welcome) partnership between mosque and state. Examining this context highlights the role of the state and bureaucratic procedures in the localized emergence of religious and professional categories like that of the American imam.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140219
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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