The Private Performance of Salat Prayers: Repetition, Time, and Meaning

by Niloofar Haeri

Volume 86, #1

Winter 2013

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Volume 86, #1 • Winter 2013




The Private Performance of Salat Prayers: Repetition,
Time, and Meaning

Niloofar Haeri, Johns Hopkins University

ABSTRACT — This article is an ethnography of the private performance of the five daily prayers of Islam among a group of middle class, educated women in Tehran. It goes beyond the public and formal spheres to explore religious experience in everyday life. What happens in a ritual when performed alone, without a public? I argue against the prevalent notion that repetition renders the formulas of rituals meaningless. Instead, over time, there is a proliferation of meanings emerging as a result of the undermining of the formality of the text by repetition. The ways in which creativity is exercised are analyzed in answer to the question of what makes one prayer session more satisfying than another—what is an efficacious salat?  I argue that the length of time the prayers have been performed, the age of the reciter, and the literate practices of reading and debate are crucial in understanding how this ritual is brought to life by its practitioners.[Keywords: Islam, ritual, prayer, women, language, Iran]


From the Cross (and Crescent) to the Cedar and Back Again: Transnational Religion and Politics Among Lebanese Christians in Senegal

Mara A. Leichtman, Michigan State University

ABSTRACT — This article examines the changing relationship between religion, secularism, national politics, and identity formation among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Notre Dame du Liban, the first Lebanese religious institution in West Africa, draws on its Lebanese “national” character to accommodate Lebanese Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Dakar, remaining an icon of “Lebanese” religion, yet departing from religious sectarianism in Lebanon. As such, transnational religion can vary from national religion, gaining new resonances and reinforcing a wider “secular” ethno-national identity. [Keywords: Transnational migration, ethnicity, Maronite Church, Senegal, Lebanon, religion, politics]


Neoliberalism and the New Agora: Exploring Survival, Emergence, and Political Subjectivity Among Pluralized Subaltern Communities in Athens, Greece

Othon Alexandrakis, York University

ABSTRACT — In the wake of the Greek economic crisis, pluralized groups of subalterns are coming together across Athens to take advantage of new, post-bailout, below-the-radar work opportunities. This article follows one such group consisting of an undocumented migrant from Mauritania and a small group of Roma (Gypsies), as they established an undocumented transportation business. It probes the complex relationship between subjective identity formation and the emergence of new modes of collective political agency in neoliberal contexts. By adapting work-related techniques of survival, members of the transport group and their broader networks are creating public spaces of multivalent political intensity. [Keywords: Agency, subjectivities, neoliberalism, Athens, migrants, Roma]


Why Did the Soldiers Not Go Home? Demobilized Combatants, Family Life, and Witchcraft in Postwar Mozambique

Nikkie Wiegink, Utrecht University

ABSTRACT — Drawing on the role of witchcraft in relationships between ex-RENAMO combatants and their relatives in central Mozambique, this article suggests a different understanding of reintegration processes of ex-combatants, not merely shaped by their role as perpetrators of violence, but situated in the complexities of social life. It is argued that the reintegration of former combatants in Mozambique was shaped by certain changes within family relations, which were contingent to the war (but not necessarily to war violence), creating an enabling environment for witchcraft dynamics, which influenced former combatants’ settlement decisions. [Keywords: Reintegration of former combatants, Mozambique, witchcraft, kinship, postwar]


Intimate Tourism Markets: Money, Gender, and the Complexity of Erotic Exchange in a Costa Rican Caribbean Town

Susan Frohlick, University of Manitoba

This article focuses on heterosexual North American and European tourist women in a transnational town in Atlantic Costa Rica renown for its intimate “vibe” and independent eco-oriented tourist development, where they grappled with the unexpected monetary aspects of intimate relations with Caribbean-Costa Rican men. Drawing from three women’s narratives, I explore the particularities of how North American women give money to men with whom they are having sex or intimate relations and what this giving means to both the women and their partners. Rather than refute the monetary underpinnings of tourist women’s transnational sex or see money as all powerful, I show the complexity of transactions and multiple meanings that accrue to money and markets. I argue that the small-scale, informal, and “intimate market” context of the Caribbean as a tourist destination, as well as the valence of sexual secrecy in combination with the moral evaluations about foreign women’s relations with local men that circulated in the town, were central influences on the exchanges. [Keywords: Women’s travel, global tourism, sexual exchange, heterosexuality, tourism markets, transnational intimacies]


Culture’s Calling: Mobile Phones, Gender, and the Making of an African Migrant Village in Lisbon

Michelle C. Johnson, Bucknell University

ABSTRACT — In this article, I explore how immigrants from the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau living in Portugal use mobile phones in their daily lives in Lisbon. Whereas one might assume that mobile phones and other new information technologies facilitate transnational communication between Africa and Portugal, the ethnographic fieldwork that I conducted in Lisbon from 1999 to 2003 revealed a different scenario. Instead, mobile phones as imagined and used by the Guinean immigrants I met in Lisbon revealed less about transnationalism and globalization than they did about constructing community and identity in a new locale. As Guinean immigrants in Portugal reconfigured their relationship to their former colonizers and struggled to make their way in a new, multicultural Europe, they used their mobile phones to engage local networks, shape local identities, and transform Lisbon’s sprawl into an African migrant village. Here, I highlight the gendered dimensions of this process and contend that Guinean men’s and women’s varied uses of mobile phones in Lisbon underscore contrasting experiences of migration, mobility, and belonging. [Keywords: Mobile phones, gender, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, technology, transnationalism]


Against Apartheid: Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Language Ideology in Northern Namibia

Wendi A. Haugh, St. Lawrence University

ABSTRACT — Nationalist and cosmopolitan identities and projects are generally presented as mutually antithetical. I draw on evidence from research on language attitudes in northern Namibia to argue that they may actually enable each other. In Namibia, nationalist and internationalist perspectives have dominated discourses about political identity and community, and new language policies were designed and implemented to facilitate Namibia’s transformation from apartheid state to nation-state. Yet a close examination of popular discourses about language reveals a strongly cosmopolitan orientation rooted in opposition to apartheid ideology and in participation in the migrant labor economy. I argue that in this case, cosmopolitan orientations have facilitated the rise of nationalism while nationalism has enabled people to carry out cosmopolitan projects. [Keywords: Namibia, apartheid, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, labor migration, language policy, language ideology]


“Things that Involve Sex are Just Different”: US Anti-Trafficking Law and Policy on the Books, in Their Minds, and in Action

Alicia W. Peters, University of New England

ABSTRACT — The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed by the US Congress in 2000, criminalizes the forced or deceptive movement of people into exploitative conditions of labor and provides services to victims. The law makes a symbolic distinction (although it holds no legal meaning) between “sex” and “non-sex” trafficking, (i.e., movement into forced prostitution and movement into other forced labor sectors), thereby marking “sex trafficking” as a special category. This article explores how the law is translated into action through symbolically-mediated processes that incorporate assumptions and narratives about sex, gender, and victimization, as well as how the symbolic privileging of “sex trafficking” results in uneven treatment of victims. [Keywords: Human trafficking, gender and sexuality, law and policy, law enforcement, victimization]