The Journal of Asian Studies

Research Article

Muslim Cosmopolitans? Transnational Life in Northern Pakistan

Magnus Marsden

Abstract

This article explores the importance of transnational forms of Muslim cultural identity in northern Pakistan. By documenting the dynamism of a transnational form of Muslim identity that encompasses people belonging to a wide range of ethnic communities and Islamic doctrinal traditions, as well as extending across countries whose Muslim peoples have experienced the differential effects of their incorporation into both the Soviet Union and British India, the author seeks to challenge the work of Islam specialists who emphasize the centrality of “globalizing modernity” to the making of contemporary forms of Muslim identity. In contrast, this article builds on historical accounts of premodern forms of Muslim cosmopolitanism, notably Engseng Ho's study of Hadrami Muslim scholars who saw themselves as active creators of a universal world structured around the transregional ideals of their faith in the expansive Indian Ocean trading world. Building on this and other work on cosmopolitanism, the author documents the ways in which older experiences of mobility in this politically sensitive region of the world influence villagers' present-day engagements with globalizing processes. The ethnographic focus is on the ways in which Sunni and Shi'a Ismai'li Chitrali Muslims interacted with refugees into their region from Afghanistan and Tajikistan between 1979 and 2002, a time when both countries were experiencing violent civil and international conflict.

Footnotes

Magnus Marsden (mm101@soas.ac.uk) is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology with reference to South and Central Asia in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

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