Harini Kumar

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9736

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Kumar, Harini, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Formations of Tamil Islam: Negotiations and Contestations in Contemporary South India,' supervised by Dr. William T.S. Mazzarella

Preliminary abstrract: In the past few decades, the spread of Wahhabism–often understood as a form of orthodox Islamic thought with roots in Saudi Arabia–is causing anxiety among Muslims in Tamil Nadu, India. In a region with long-standing religious practices around Muslim shrines, anti-shrine campaigns associated with Wahhabi organizations are perceived as a threat to a distinct Tamil Muslim religious and ethnolinguistic identity. Through a study of sensory and embodied religious practice, and an analysis of a pervasive state of anxiety, this ethnography investigates how competing understandings and approaches to questions of Tamil Muslimness and devotional practice are shaping everyday social interactions. It seeks to explain how contemporary practices of piety are mediated by deeper genealogies of Tamil Muslimness, new notions of ‘correct’ religiosity, and global and transnational circuits of movement and migration. Furthermore, this project will trace how localized contestations over new forms of religious authority complicate already existing notions of Islam itself as ‘foreign’ to India. I will conduct ethnographic research in Tamil Nadu’s capital of Chennai, and the coastal pilgrimage towns of Kilakarai and Nagore.