Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Religion, Vassar College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Religion, Harvard University
An Ethics of Renewal: Muslim Moral Formation and Transformation in Paris and Marseille

Through a fine-grained ethnography of religiously engaged Muslims in the environs of Paris and Marseille, my dissertation will explore narratives, practices, and pedagogies of moral formation and transformation. The central aim of this research is to understand how the individuals I speak with conceptualize what it means to be a "good Muslim" in the French context. What practices are most important? What authorities are most compelling? What strategies for becoming a better Muslim are adopted? My research will be carried out in mosques, Islamic educational institutes, and study groups. I will investigate how the ethical development of participants in these pedagogical contexts interacts with and sometimes incorporates both transnational discourses of Islamic morality and the values and practices of non-Muslim French society. My research will portray how some French Muslims learn, enact, and theorize moral improvement through a religious framework. This will include two main elements: a study of pedagogy in my three contexts of focus, and a study of participants' personal narratives and discourses of formation. I hypothesize that many French Muslims experience and narrate their religious formation as at once a series of wholly free, deliberative choices and as the inevitable result of some outside force. I further hypothesize that this is true both for watershed moments of moral transformation and for everyday ethical deliberation and practice. My dissertation will reframe recent discussions about freedom in two ways: first, by considering freedom as it functions in narrative and rhetoric, rather than as a descriptor of human behavior, and second, by exploring the ways that within these narratives and rhetorics, freedom may be bound up tightly with constraint.