Current Institutional Affiliation
Anthropology, Yale University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2017
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Yale University
Faithful Citizenship: Islam, Bureuacratic Ritual, and the State in Rajasthan, India

How does bureaucracy become a site for religious expression? How do spiritual concerns, bureaucratic practices, and small-town politics generate forms of "faithful citizenship"? This dissertation project explores these questions through the ethnographic case of predominantly Muslim communities in two towns in the state of Rajasthan, North India. I examine the ways in which residents make material and spiritual claims on state resources and navigate a dense field of local social providers. Rather than regard "faithfulness" as a symptom of religious identity politics or exceptionalize a "Muslim citizenship," I seek to understand the ways faith may provide a framework for apprehending the state and cultivating a pluralistic sociality. Drawing on preliminary ethnographic work among government and non-governmental organizations that represent state power at the local level, I study citizen experience through the lens of bureaucratic processes. These practices reveal the ways citizens negotiate personal aspirations, community obligations, and engage with broader notions of ideal citizenship and pious virtue. This project seeks to contribute to an anthropology of the decentralized state, to de-stigmatize religious affect in political contexts, and to examine the production of faith through social and political claim-making. It also speaks to imminent political concerns about the role of (religious) minorities under "secular" citizenship regimes. I propose that a study of "faithful citizenship" that accounts for the role of religious aspiration in bureaucratic process will reveal the ethical and practical considerations that inform the political worlds of Muslim citizens in a pluralistic society.