Homo Economicus or Homo Islamicus?: Malaysia and the Globalization of Islamic Finance


ACLS Fellowship Program


Pacific and Asian Studies


Recent financial crises around the globe have precipitated renewed enthusiasm across the Muslim world for an Islamic alternative to conventional finance. This project is an ethnographic investigation of ambitious plans in contemporary Malaysia to develop the infrastructure necessary to create a transnationally valid Islamic financial system. The project documents the debates among government planners, Islamic scholars, bankers, and others as the state seeks to make the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, the “New York of the Muslim world”: the central node in a transnational Islamic financial network. The project asks whether Islamic finance offers an alternative economic rationality to conventional capitalism or whether it simply represents a translation of homo economicus into Islamic idioms.