Caitlyn Bolton

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York, Graduate Center, City U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9486

Approve Date

April 27, 2017

Project Title

Bolton, Caitlyn, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Spirit of Progress: Islamic Education, Development, and Modernity in Zanzibar,' supervised by Dr. Mandana Limbert

Preliminary abstract: Perched on the edges of Africa and the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar has long been a site for British colonial and Euro-American development programs that struggled to relate meaningfully to local knowledge and value systems, particularly religion. Yet it was also a colonial center for the Arab Islamic world, and now a destination site for international Islamic development organizations that are vitally structured by Islamic religious narratives, yet also inevitably informed by local African and Euro-American epistemologies and practices. This project analyzes approaches to development and social change by international Islamic organizations working in education in Zanzibar, examining the role of religion and religious knowledge in a site at the nexus of multiple global communities and systems of meaning. I ask: How do contemporary Islamic development organizations attempt to work on the inner (bātini) spiritual lives of their recipients, given development’s enduring focus on outer (dhāhiri) material conditions (that discipline internally)? In what ways do they employ conceptions of progress measured by the spiritual (and material) and invoke a return back to a golden Islamic past, and in what ways do they draw on Euro-American liberal notions measured by the economic and technical and oriented toward an infinitely perfectible future? How do Islamic development approaches change as they increasingly interact with Euro-American development agencies? This project involves archival and ethnographic research with three Islamic organizations linked to the main Indian Ocean diasporas in Zanzibar (South Asian, Omani, & Hadrami/Yemeni) and at one organization’s headquarters in Oman, tracing the contemporary networks of Islamic scholars and elites across the Indian Ocean.