Pedagogies of Transformation: Teaching and Learning Muslim Ethics in Greater Paris
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Wesselhoeft, Kirsten M. Yoder
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CitationWesselhoeft, Kirsten M. Yoder. 2017. Pedagogies of Transformation: Teaching and Learning Muslim Ethics in Greater Paris. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is an ethnographic study of moral education and social activism among religiously-engaged Muslims in the Paris metropolitan area. It investigates how French Muslims are working to ethically transform their faith communities, their selves, and their society at large. Over the course of this investigation, I trace the way in which some French Muslims pose, debate, and respond to existential questions about the values, goals, and future of their religious community. I explore the ethical and political stakes of these debates for the French Muslims who are preoccupied with them, and situate them in the physical and discursive landscape of post-colonial metropolitan Paris. At its core, this dissertation is about how Muslims teach, learn, and argue about ethics, and strive to live ethically across an interconnected archipelago of settings of religious engagement.
Grounded in 20 months of in-depth ethnographic research, this dissertation makes four key findings, and from these findings draws out two key arguments. Findings: 1) Sites of Muslim education in greater Paris, while numerous and ever-multiplying, are relatively unstable—students and teachers flow in and out of them with regularity, and broad mobility around the metropolitan area is the norm for those who seek religious education. 2) Sites of instruction in Islamic ethics are situated in a network of other types of Islamic organizations that function equally as sites of moral pedagogy. 3) Class, and in particular class mobility, was a concern of a significant segment of my interlocutors, and a decisive feature of their ethical discourses. 4) The Republican educational system was seen by many of my interlocutors as a primary arena for Muslim moral development and for the elevation of the Muslim community. This was true despite the significant obstacles that the educational system poses to various forms of Muslim piety. While public schools and universities were sometimes seen as a “battleground” in the fight against Islamophobia, they were also prized by many as the source of valuable moral resources and as a central terrain in which to live out Muslim values and participate in the formation of the ideal Muslim community.
Based on these findings, this dissertation makes two overarching arguments: 1) For many of my interlocutors, “the community” is the primary target of moral formation, rather than the individual self. Current public discourse in France, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, makes systematic reference to France’s “Muslim community.” The Muslim community in France is an endlessly contested imagined community with deliberately blurry boundaries. Its moral and intellectual state, its future, its salvation, and, indeed, its very existence preoccupied many members of the broad network of activists, students, teachers, and religious professionals with whom I spoke. 2) This network of Muslim students, teachers, activists, and other actors has developed an “ethics of critique” that draws on the Islamic sciences as well as techniques and traditions of grassroots social activism to respond to the socio-economic, cultural, and political challenges faced by the Muslim community in France. This ethics of critique is focused on social change, and takes class, materiality, and space to be key concerns of Islamic ethics.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41142061
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