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Cambridge University Press
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December 2012
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In this powerful, but accessible new study, John Bowen draws on a full range of work in social anthropology to present Islam in ways that emphasise its constitutive practices, from praying and learning to judging and political organising. Starting at the heart of Islam - revelation and learning in Arabic lands - Bowen shows how Muslims have adapted Islamic texts and traditions to ideas and conditions in the societies in which they live. Returning to key case studies in Asia, Africa and Western Europe, to explore each major domain of Islamic religious and social life, Bowen also considers the theoretical advances in social anthropology that have come out of the study of Islam. A New Anthropology of Islam is essential reading for all those interested in the study of Islam and for those following new developments in the discipline of anthropology.


'John Bowen's book is a model of scholarly honesty and acuity; it presents Islamic religious life as a range of activities and practices in which red threads of Islamic traditions interpenetrate local usages and exigencies. These usages and exigencies make Islam as diverse yet recognizable a tradition of faith and practice as any other of the major religious traditions, all reductive stereotypes to the contrary. A well-written and engaging effort to sketch out an intelligent 'anthropology of Islam' by presenting what particular Muslims 'do' and how those Muslims understand what they do.'

William A. Graham - Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

'For those who would drive a wedge between textual Islam and local practice, or simply reduce the one to the other, this insightful study will come as a vital corrective. In such crucial domains as learning, law, and ritual, Bowen both synthesizes and reconfigures the study of Islamic cultures in ways that ordinary readers - as well as journalists, politicians, and scholars - will find immeasurably valuable.'

Lawrence Rosen - Princeton University

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