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Identity and difference in a Muslim community in central Gujarat, India following the 2002 communal violence.

Heitmeyer, Carolyn M (2009) Identity and difference in a Muslim community in central Gujarat, India following the 2002 communal violence. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The broad aim of the thesis is to examine the impact of class, caste and religious identity in constructing notions of Muslim identity in a small town in central Gujarat, India and to challenge wider assumptions about the primacy of religious identity in ordering sociality in 'everyday life' in the region following the large-scale violence against the Muslim minority in 2002. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic research, the thesis engages with debates about the impact of violence on inter-ethnic relations and the construction of a minority identity. My research focuses particularly on the Muslim Sunni Vohras in the town of Mahemdabad, a community whose language, residential patterns, dress and kinship system defy, both locally as well as more generally, dualistic notions of what constitutes 'Hindu'/'Muslim' modes of conduct. As a merchant group, Sunni Vohras in the town have traditionally maintained closer ties with local Hindu merchants rather than other Muslims with whom they commonly eschew close affiliation. Through an analysis of various spheres such as kinship, gender, religious practice and local politics, the thesis examines how different notions of 'Muslim identity' are at once predicated on an opposition to 'Hindu identity' but likewise how competing definitions are brandished as a means of establishing status and honour. On a wider level, the thesis presents an examination of how 'everyday coexistence' between different religious groups in the town following the 2002 violence and the way in which such coexistence is sustained and managed through informal networks. Unlike nearby cities, the town in which research was conducted had not previously experienced wide-scale attacks in the past and prided itself on the 'communal harmony' between Hindus and Muslims. The thesis argues that the ongoing salience of caste and class links between the two communities constitute a central factor in explaining how, despite the wider social and political context, religious identity has not succeeded in trumping previous forms of social stratification.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Social Structure and Development, South Asian Studies, Religion, General, Islamic Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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