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Maryam Kashani (Asian American Studies/Gender & Women's Studies)

Junior Research Fellow, 2019-2021

"Medina by the Bay: An Islamic Ethics of Difference and Survival in the Bay Area

Islam is often discussed as something that arrives in (and threatens) the United States from a historic and geographic elsewhere. This project examines Muslim histories from the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and 1970s counterculture, to the more recent establishment of a Muslim liberal arts college, schools, and non-profits, to demonstrate how the San Francisco Bay Area is not only a destination, but a source for Islamic knowledge and Muslim ways of being. Based on eight years of ethnographic fieldwork and filmmaking in multiracial and multiethnic Muslim communities, this book project and related website consider how Muslims mobilize Islam as an ethical and epistemic framework to negotiate issues of difference, social justice, and survival. This project demonstrates how socioeconomic forces and geopolitical agendas impact which Muslim educational institutions and forms of Muslim life flourish and which are subject to precarity. By examining how classical liberal arts, liberation theories and theologies, and racial capitalism and geographies intersect in Muslim projects and strategies of survival and flourishing, this project demonstrates how studies of religion must be read through and with relations of power and subject-making. Similarly, because the figure of "the Muslim" and the question of "what is Islam?" are such moving targets of signification, this research likewise takes up the ethics, politics, and aesthetics of knowledge-making and representation, drawing on theories of decoloniality, indigeneity, queer of color critique, and film and visual theory. This study argues for a deeper consideration of local histories, politics, and geographies in community-driven education projects while also demonstrating how schools and informal learning environments are related structurally - through their proximities, the transit of people within them, and state interventions that shape efforts for autonomy, assimilation, authority, and survival.

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