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Black Islam South Africa : Religious Territoriality, Conversion, and the Transgression of Orderly Indigeneity

Title data

Gebauer, Matthias:
Black Islam South Africa : Religious Territoriality, Conversion, and the Transgression of Orderly Indigeneity.
Mainz , 2019 . - vii, 238 Blätter
( Doctoral thesis, 2019 , Johannes-Gutenberg Universität Mainz)

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Abstract in another language

Social alienation and the struggle to belong in the South African society are not only matters of political discourse but touch the practical sphere of everyday life in the respective places of residence. This thesis therefore approaches the entanglements of religion and space within the processes of re-ordering African indigeneity in post-apartheid South Africa. It asks how conversion to Islam constitutes the longing for a post-colonial and post-racialized African self. This study specifically engages with dynamics surrounding Black and Muslim practices and identity politics in formerly demarcated Black African areas. Here, even after the official end of apartheid, spatial racialization and social inequalities persist. Modes of orderings rooted in colonialism and apartheid still define what orderly belonging and African indigeneity mean. Thus, the inhabitants of those spaces find themselves in situations every day in which their habitat continuously ascribes oppression and racialization. The post-1994 promise for equal citizenship seems to be slowly fading, becoming a broken promise, on whose fulfillment the majority of people who were previously—by official definition and demarcation—only granted the right of being a migratory workforce, sojourners in the White spaces, are still waiting. Against this background, this thesis engages with the attempts to reformulate and recreate African indigeneity on the basis of a counter-hegemonic ideology of being Black and Muslim. It pays attention to the emergence and articulation of a Black Muslim indigeneity that is based on bringing together a pre-colonial idealization of the African self with global ideologies of Muslim Blackness. With a regional focus on KwaZulu-Natal and a specific look at the developments in and around the urban and peri-urban areas of eThekwini (Durban), it features particular case studies which highlight religious territorialization on the one hand and attempts to transgress the social and spatial modes of orderings by converting to Islam on the other. Here, South Africans once classified as Black African seek a common modus operandi in Muslim Blackness in order to break with orderly indigeneity as ascribed, defined, and structured by colonialism and apartheid, even going as far as to out-migrate from the lived-in places which continue to be experienced daily as unsettling and uprooting. With preparations being made to create a new settlement and establish a new social order, the unfulfilled promise of post-apartheid will be left behind, once and for all. This makes the featured case a peculiar, though so far under-researched, example: Throughout the history of colonization and especially during the time of apartheid, the practice of Islam was strongly interwoven with a changing but persistent struggle for identity and belonging. Being Muslim became oppressively obscured as it was directed as an institutional term towards such politically created population categories as Indian or Coloured. This implied a very structural and spatial effect, as the communal practice of Islam was limited to those respective residential areas. Thus, the former Black African areas of South Africa are important places to engage with: Segregated and socio-spatially ordered over decades of colonialism, racism, and apartheid, these vast areas of relatively high-density living conditions and desolated livelihoods characterize the surroundings of every major city in South Africa. The duality of White urban core and Black outskirts represents a spatial and social pattern whose inequalities persist up until now. But these places also came to manifest a stratification of religious practices and orderly religious belonging, as orderly African indigeneity was unquestionably linked to Christianity, while Islamic institutions were almost non-existent within the Black African areas. The case of conversions to Islam among the indigenous African population of South Africa also exemplifies the paradoxical untouchability of religiously territorialized space within the ideology of apartheid, which enabled some to maintain an exclusive sense of belonging to their former places of residence and a practical connection to the land from which they had been forcibly removed. By moving beyond the specific cases, the ideas and practices of Blackness and Muslimness are discussed in light of diasporic identity formations in relation to their colonial connotations, thereby opening up a perspective on creating an indigeneity transgressive to the conditions of everyday life. This thesis is informed by an interdisciplinary perspective of cultural geography and Islamic studies and highlights how a racialized Black Islam has been invoked in order to reclaim authority over the religious and political scale of the African self. Building on qualitative research and the analysis of religious Black Muslim ideology, it connects the struggle to belong within a post-colonial society to the utopia of a Black Muslim indigeneity as part of a global Black and Muslim community. It will be argued that South African Muslim Blackness is the result of global travels of anti-Western and anti-colonial ideologies with an Islamic framework and their subsequent translation into the realm of social and spatial orderings. The self of the African convert to Islam, culturally inscribed by racialized path dependencies and bodily ascribed by racist social realities, is translated into the Islamic counter-hegemonic narrative. Black Islam becomes a state of exception, a heterotopia to the daily lived-in narrative of identity politics, and makes transgression of persisting modes of social and spatial ordering possible.

Abstract in another language

Post-Apartheid Südafrika ist bis heute von rassistischen Alltagspolitiken und sozialer Ungleichheit geprägt. Strukturen, die bis in die Zeit des Kolonialismus zurückgehen verbleiben in der Relationalität von Menschen und Raum wirkmächtig. Der Traum gleicher Zugehörigkeit verkommt zu einem unerfüllten Versprechen. Soziale Entfremdung und der Kampf um die Zugehörigkeit zur südafrikanischen Gesellschaft sind somit nicht nur Fragen des politischen Diskurses, sondern berühren vor allem den gelebten Alltag am jeweiligen Wohnort. Die Forschungsarbeit beschäftigt sich daher mit den Verflechtungen von Religion und Raum innerhalb der Prozesse der Neuordnung afrikanischer Indigenität in Südafrika nach der Apartheid. Sie fragt, inwiefern in der Konversion zum Islam eine Suche nach einem postkolonialen und post-rassistischen afrikanischen Selbst darstellt. Diese Studie beschäftigt sich insbesondere mit Praktiken und Identitätspolitiken von Blackness und Muslimness in ehemals segregierten Black-African Gebieten. Hier, auch nach dem offiziellen Ende der Apartheid, bestehen räumlich-rassistische Einschreibungen und soziale Ungleichheiten fort. Die im Kolonialismus und in der Apartheid verwurzelten Ordnungsmodi definieren bis heute, was geordnete Zugehörigkeit und afrikanische Indigenität zu sein haben. Vor diesem Hintergrund beschäftigt sich die Arbeit mit Versuchen von vormals als Black-African klassifizierter Südafrikaner, auf der Grundlage einer gegenhegemonialen Ideologie des being Black and Muslim ihre Indigenität neu zu bestimmen. Mit einem regionalen Fokus auf KwaZulu-Natal und einem spezifischen Blick auf die Entwicklungen in und um die Stadt- und Stadtrandgebiete von eThekwini (Durban) arbeitet die Studie mit speziellen Fallstudien, die einerseits die religiöse Territorialisierung hervorheben und andererseits die Transgression sozialer und räumlicher Ordnungsweisen durch Konversion zum Islam aufzeigen.

Further data

Item Type: Doctoral thesis
Keywords: South Africa; Islam; Conversion; Black Atlantic; Indigeneity; Townhsip; Resistance; Murabitun; KwaMashu; eThekwini
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Social and Population Geography
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences
Result of work at the UBT: No
DDC Subjects: 200 Religion > 290 Other religions
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences, geology
900 History and geography > 910 Geography, travel
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2020 07:09
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2020 07:09