Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Geography, California State University / Humboldt State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of Oregon
Defining Territory, Shaping Faith: Islam and the Changing Landscape of Kazan's Old Tatar Quarter

Tatarstan, a region of Russia populated by equal numbers of Muslim Tatars and Christian Russians, is site to an Islamic revival. Officials in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, promote a progressive form of Islam known as Jadidism as a factor in maintaining interethnic harmony. The primacy of Jadidism, however, is contested by the growing presence of conservative strains of Islam that have been implicated in acts of extremism in Tatarstan. Though this revival is framed in cultural terms, as localized traditionalism threatened by globalizing fundamentalism, the situation is not merely a question of -culture. Rather, it is driven by political-territorial circumstances within and beyond Tatarstan. In the 1990s, the religious aspect of Tatar ethnic identity was cultivated by the Kazan-based government as part of its sovereignty drive. Today, amid a recentralization of the federation, Moscow seeks rapprochement with Tatarstan, and its other Muslim regions, while simultaneously developing closer ties with a broader Muslim world. Thus, center-region politics combine with geopolitics to influence Islam's expression at a locale. These developments are part of a historical pattern, but largely elided in contemporary discussions about Islam in Tatarstan. To understand the implications of this religious revival, my research moves beyond the notion that Islam is simply a, cultural phenomenon and-explains how it has been shaped and altered by political-territorial circumstances. Specifically, my research addresses these questions: How has the historical competition between Kazan and Moscow for influence and control over territory affected the social expression of Islam in Kazan? Why, and to what extent, have conservative or fundamentalist versions of Islam become established in Kazan? I will seek answers to these questions in Kazan's Old Tatar Quarter. Using qualitative methods and GIS spatial analysis, I will show how Islam is embedded in the Quarter's changing landscape.