An Enchanted Modern

An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi'i Lebanon

Lara Deeb
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 275
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  • Book Info
    An Enchanted Modern
    Book Description:

    Based on two years of ethnographic research in the southern suburbs of Beirut,An Enchanted Moderndemonstrates that Islam and modernity are not merely compatible, but actually go hand-in-hand. This eloquent ethnographic portrayal of an Islamic community articulates how an alternative modernity, and specifically an enchanted modernity, may be constructed by Shi'I Muslims who consider themselves simultaneously deeply modern, cosmopolitan, and pious.

    In this depiction of a Shi'I Muslim community in Beirut, Deeb examines the ways that individual and collective expressions and understandings of piety have been debated, contested, and reformulated.

    Women take center stage in this process, a result of their visibility both within the community, and in relation to Western ideas that link the status of women to modernity. By emphasizing the ways notions of modernity and piety are lived, debated, and shaped by "everyday Islamists," this book underscores the inseparability of piety and politics in the lives of pious Muslims.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4078-6
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Note on Language
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Part One: Encounters, Approaches, Spaces, Moments
    • INTRODUCTION Pious and/as/is Modern
      (pp. 3-41)

      Hajjeh Umm Zein shook her hand at the television and said emphatically, “I can’t believe this! What is this backwardness?!”¹ Her daughter and I were sitting across the living room, talking about a charity event we had recently attended. “What, Mama?” “Look at this! Where in Islam does it tell them to waste their time on something empty/useless (shīfāḍī) like this? This is not Islam!” We turned toward the muted television. An image of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan destroying two large statues of the Buddha filled the screen, the CNN logo at the bottom. I picked up the remote...

    • CHAPTER ONE Al-Dahiyya: Sight, Sound, Season
      (pp. 42-66)

      Residents and outsiders alike refer to the southern suburbs of Beirut as“al-Dahiyya”—a word that simply means “the suburb” in Arabic,¹ but that connotes “the Shi‘i ghetto” to many in other parts of the city. More a conglomeration of multiple municipalities and neighborhoods than a single suburb, al-Dahiyya is bounded by the city to the north, Beirut International Airport to the south, the Mediterranean on the west side, and an agricultural area to the east. It used to be that due to this location al-Dahiyya was unavoidable. To get from the rest of Beirut to the airport or anywhere...

    • CHAPTER TWO From Marginalization to Institutionalization
      (pp. 67-96)

      The textures depicted in the previous chapter are relatively new to Beirut, just as the community of the Shi‘i pious modern is relatively new to the Lebanese national scene. In order to understand where all this came from, it is necessary to glance through recent Shi‘i Lebanese history, culminating in the institutionalization of the Shi‘i Islamic movement. The public visibility of religiosity, and, more importantly, the accompanying changes in understandings of what it means to be a pious person, are rooted in a historical trajectory that took Lebanese Shi‘is from a marginalized position to one of institutionalized influence. This trajectory...

  6. Part Two: Living an Enchanted Modern
    • CHAPTER THREE The Visibility of Religion in Daily Life
      (pp. 99-128)

      One afternoon in May, I stopped in to see my friend Aziza. She led me through the formal living room onto the balcony, where I was met by the mingling aromas of coffee and apple-flavored tobacco, faint hints of roasting meat and exhaust from the street far below, and occasional whiffs of gardenia brought from the balcony’s other end by the breeze. Three other women were seated there, enjoying the spring weather. I had met them all over the past six months, either through Aziza, or at one of thejam‘iyyas. Ghada, a neighbor in her late teens, often sought...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Ashura: Authentication and Sacrifice
      (pp. 129-164)

      As Hajjeh Rula began to narrate the final moments Husayn spent with his eldest son, Ali al-Akbar, sobs rose heavily around us, filling the room with palpable grief. Her voice cracked as she lamented poetry into her microphone, describing how Husayn looked upon his son, who had come to him for his blessing before riding into battle, with the knowledge that the next time he saw Ali, the latter would be a corpse. This mournful parting was followed by an all-too-vivid description of the son’s death, his body mutilated by the enemy’s swords, Hajjeh Rula repeating the details of swords...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Community Commitment
      (pp. 165-203)

      November 30, 2000

      The traffic was insane today, though Aziza assures me this is typical of Ramadan. By the time I arrived at the Center, it was already 11 a.m. Hajjeh Huda, Dalal, and Aziza were in the front distribution area, going over paperwork, and the women in the back “kitchen”—mostly poor women helping out for modest pay or to take food home to their families—had already begun cooking today’s meal. As I waved hello, a delivery truck pulled up, full of boxes of vegetables being donated by a local grocer, so Aziza and I joined in unloading...

    • CHAPTER SIX Public Piety as Women’s Jihād
      (pp. 204-219)

      “This is women’sjihād.” I heard that sentence over and over again, as volunteers described their community service work. The phrase “women’sjihād” also applies to public piety more generally. This chapter is organized around unpacking that phrase and relationship, while taking a closer look at how public piety and its practices impinged on pious Shi‘i women’s lives.

      Although the practices of and ideas about piety based in “authenticated” Islam that have been detailed thus far involve and affect pious Shi‘is regardless of gender, they hold especial importance for women. No doubt this importance is partly constructed, the result of...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Pious Modern Ideal and Its Gaps
      (pp. 220-232)

      Thus Far, we have seen the visible manifestations ofiltizāmin the spatial and temporal cadences of al-Dahiyya, in daily religious practices and discourses, devotion to community service, Ashura commemorations, and emulation of’ahl al-baytand especially of Sayyida Zaynab. We have also seen how these various textures incorporate the tight weave of piety, humanitarianism, and politics, which constitutes and reflects authentication and the pious modern. The continuing transformations of all these manifestations implicate the tensions between the personal and the performed.

      The relationship between public and personal piety varied from person to person, moment to moment. While they can...

  7. Glossary
    (pp. 233-234)
  8. References
    (pp. 235-250)
  9. Index
    (pp. 251-263)