The Newsletter 56 Spring 2011

Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics

Dale F. Eickelman

THE IDEA FOR THIS SERIES originated with its co-founders, political scientist James Piscatori, and myself, a social anthropologist, in 1990. It was intended to complement our book Muslim Politics (1996, new edition 2004). For us, ‘Muslim politics’ encompassed more than a concentration on self-ascribed religious authorities or doctrinal concerns. Traditionally educated religious scholars clearly enjoy a role in such politics, but so do lay intellectuals, mothers, government leaders, musicians, and many others who assert major roles in shaping how religion and politics play out in public. The rapid expansion of mass higher education, the greater ease of travel and migration, and the rapid proliferation and accessibility of new media have all expanded the numbers of those who contribute to reshaping religious practice, the religious imagination, and their impact on politics.

Yet all too often, we felt, the study of politics had been dominated by the study of elites and formal institutions. The politically signifi cant activities of non-elites count equally, and we recognized that an evaluation of the civic order and its potential depends on a complex calculus of actors, interests, and values that transcend frontiers of geography, language, ethnicity, sect, and class – and those of academic discipline.