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Hutschenreiter, Priyanka (2023) Spatial Orientations: Negotiating Class, Islam and Difference in Dhaka City. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis unpacks the religious-secular becomings of upper middle-class Muslims in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Taking the assumption that the religious and the secular are lived together, I discuss not only how the secular and the religious are borrowed from as separate domains, but how they are often quite literally indiscernible. Building on a phenomenology of space, I focus on how my interlocutors in Dhaka feel about and navigate differences of being Muslim, including those who no longer believe, through the social and material spaces that they live in. A phenomenology of space here involves foregrounding the spaces my interlocutors inhabit and how these orient them towards their religious-secular becomings. I show how city spaces enforce class limits, but are also used to negotiate personal and community boundaries around religious-secular beliefs, practices and differences. Thinking of class, religiosity and the secular through space, I argue, allows for a more nuanced sense of how upper middle-class Muslims in Dhaka are negotiating class and religious-secular identity today. Rather than assume that religion and class produce uniform subjects, I argue that a phenomenology of space provides a unique way to consider social-historical determination, intentional action and feeling together in understanding the ethical choices and actions of my interlocutors. This contributes a material and phenomenological orientation to contemporary literature in the anthropology of Islam that moves beyond an over-focus on Muslim self-cultivation and identity that has been so formative of the discipline.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Marloes Janson, Caroline Osella and Ruba Salih
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 16:41

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