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Studying Salafis: Between Religious Exclusivity and Ethnographic Research

Monday, March 12, 2018 at 4:45pm to 6:00pm

White Hall, 106
123 Central Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

This lecture surveys the state of current research into “Quietist Salafism” and draws attention to the role of the Salafi ethnographer within this research.  By seeking to confront the negative stereotypes associated with “Salafi-Jihadism,” ethnographers too often downplay, gloss over and/or simply omit the “oppositionality” which characterize many Quietist Salafi settings. While well-meaning, such an approach is also misleading.  We can better understand Quietist Salafi circles, and the individuals within them, by acknowledging the complicated, sometimes fraught nature of the relationship between these individuals and Western-educated ethnographers. Regardless of the latter’s skill and/or good fortune, encounters are likely to feature moments of opposition, resistance and discord. 

Richard Gauvain obtained his PhD, in Theology and Religious Studies, from the University of Glasgow in 2002. He spent six years teaching at the American University in Cairo before moving to the United Arab Emirates, where he taught at the American University of Dubai and served as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. To date, Richard’s research has explored creative intersections between notions of religion and culture in the Middle East. He has focused, in particular, on reformist movements in Islam and has published a number of articles and a full monograph on the modern Egyptian Salafi movement.

Sponsored by the Department of Near Eastern Studies.


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Near Eastern Studies, Anthropology, History, Comparative Muslim Societies Program


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Contact Name

Ayla Cline

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Richard Gauvain

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Associate Professor of Comparative Religion, American University of Malta

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