Civic Virtue and Religious Reason: An Islamic Counterpublic

Hirschkind, C. (2001). Civic Virtue and Religious Reason: An Islamic Counterpublic. Cultural Anthropology, 16 (1): 3-34.

 Abridged Introduction: Since the rise of modernization theory in the 1960s up through present concerns with globalization, a growing body of anthropological and sociological scholarship has explored the impact of modern media technologies on religious practice. Scholars have frequently approached this topic in terms of a polarity between what are assumed to be two contradictory processes: the deliberative and the disciplinary. …

In this article I want to rethink this polarity between deliberative and normative models through an interrogation of the practices of public sociability tied to the production and consumption of "cassette-sermons" in Egypt. In Cairo, where I conducted fieldwork for two years, cassette-recorded sermons of popular Islamic preachers, or khutaba1 (sing, kha(lb), have become a ubiquitous part of the contemporary social landscape. The recorded voices of these orators can be heard to echo from within cafes, butcher shops, private homes, and most forms of public transportation throughout the city. Beyond its use as a form of pious entertainment, taped-sermon audition in Egypt has become a popular technique for the cultivation of Islamic virtues and, thus, for the creation of the modes of public sociability these virtues uphold.

In what follows, I will argue that the emphasis placed on the recuperation and cultivation of Islamic virtues by preachers and sermon audiences in Egypt needs to be seen in light of the role ascribed to those virtues in creating the ethical conditions for a domain of public deliberation and argumentation, a domain that over the course of this century has come to be seen by many Egyptian Muslims as necessary for the revival and strengthening of the Islamic community (umma). In contrast to a space for the formation of opinion through intersubjective reason (Habermas 1989), this arena is geared to the deployment of the disciplining power of ethical speech, a goal that takes public deliberation as one of its modalities. As such, these emergent practices cannot be understood as simply a modernizing turn toward an increasingly individualized form of rational piety or as the deployment of religion for the task of consolidating a national culture. Rather, as I argue below, they need be analyzed in terms of a
particular articulation of personal and political virtues within contemporary Islamic discourse.

Source: Wiley InterScience

(Something interesting I found)Posted: Thursday, February 1, 2001 by admin
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