Everyday Ethics: Life of Two Key Texts in the Everyday Life of Islam Among Mappilas in Contemporary Kerala, South India
My proposed ethnography of the historically bounded and dynamic textual culture found among Mappilas in contemporary Kerala, South India, is anchored in two key texts that influence the ethical practices of their everyday self-making. The first text is Adkiya, a fifteenth century Sufi text authored by Shakih Zainuddin Makhdoom Kabir (d. 928/1522), and the second one is Fathul Mueen, a sixteenth century legal text authored by Shaikh Zainuddin Makhdoom Sagir (d. 1028/1619). I intend to study these two key historical texts and seek to ethnographically investigate how, even five to six centuries after their composition, they continue to form, inform and reform ethical practices of everyday self-making among Mappilas in contemporary Kerala. One of my foundational assumptions is that ethnographic attention to the classical project of an Islamic everyday life, well-captured in these two mtexts, will enable us to understand how Muslims form and reform pious subjectivities as they encounter both textual traditions and contemporary “conditions of possibilities” – the latter spearheaded by a postcolonial state.
What is compelling about these texts is that despite the deep penetration of modern structures into their culture, the authority of these two texts has not faded in the everyday life of today’s Mappilas. It is still intact, and powerful in its contribution to the cultivation of everyday Islamic subjectivities and embodiments. Even today, lay Mappilas find themselves in a discursive and embodied everyday relationship with these two texts through the operation of an “interpretive dynamism” that has been historically fostered between ‘ulema (or Musliyars in the case of Kerala), and lay Muslims. Theoretically, my contribution sets out to combine the anthropology of ethics with the anthropology of texts and the anthropology of Islamic education. Methodologically, I draw upon textual analysis and ethnographic immersion within the settings where my key texts are learned, practiced, embodied and actualized.
First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger
Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Torsten Tschacher