Competing on the Terrain of Culture: State Secularism and the Islamic Revival


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines the important role played by culture concepts in contests between secular and religious visions of modernity in the Middle East. Through ethnographic research on state and Islamic cultural programs aimed at women, youth, and rural people, it examines why “culture” has become so important to postcolonial state governance and to religious projects to create moral communities, in an era of waning state legitimacy, transnational media and religious movements, and economic restructuring. The project sheds light on how different groups of Muslims manage the tensions between concepts of national culture and Islamic culture, and it highlights the overlaps and divergences between civilizing impulses in secular and religious notions of culturedness.