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Osella, Filippo and Osella, Caroline (2009) 'Muslim entrepreneurs in public life between India and the Gulf: making good and doing good.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 15 (s1). pp. 202-221.

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Muslim entrepreneurs from Kerala, South India, are at the forefront of India's liberalizing economy, keen innovators who have adopted the business and labour practices of global capitalism in both Kerala and the Gulf. They are also heavily involved in both charity and politics through activity in Kerala's Muslim public life. They talk about their 'social mindedness' as a combination of piety and economic calculation, the two seen not as excluding but reinforcing each other. By promoting modern education among Muslims, entrepreneurs seek to promote economic development while also embedding economic practices within a framework of ethics and moral responsibilities deemed to be 'Islamic'. Inscribing business into the rhetoric of the 'common good' also legitimizes claims to leadership and political influence. Orientations towards self-transformation through education, adoption of a 'systematic' lifestyle, and a generalized rationalization of practices have acquired wider currency amongst Muslims following the rise of reformist influence and are now mobilized to sustain novel forms of capital accumulation. At the same time, Islam is called upon to set moral and ethical boundaries for engagement with the neoliberal economy. Instrumentalist analyses cannot adequately explain the vast amounts of time and money which Muslim entrepreneurs put into innumerable 'social' projects, and neither 'political Islam' nor public pietism adequately captures the possibilities or motivations for engagement among contemporary reformist-orientated Muslims.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Special issue on Islam, politics and modernity
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISSN: 13590987
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 May 2009 11:16

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