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The ‘Muslim area’ as a regional centre: Finding a way out of the ‘ghetto’ in scholarship of Indian Muslims

  • Sanderien Verstappen
Wednesday 30 November 2016
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference Room

‘Muslim areas’ in Indian cities and towns can be seen as centres of regional and transnational networking, but are usually portrayed as sites of isolation and ‘ghettoisation’. Sanderien Verstappen shows how processes of marginalisation intersect with trajectories of rural-urban and transnational mobility, through a case study of Charotar Sunni Vohra Muslims in Gujarat and in the UK.

Anand town in central Gujarat exemplifies the trend of ghettoisation of Indian cities: after the violence of 2002, the ‘Muslim area’ of this fast-growing town became an important site of immigration for Muslims from nearby villages and towns. Despite their displacement from the villages, and the trends of urbanisation and residential segregation, ethnographic research reveals that a sense of belonging to the wider region remains important in this urban context. Regional orientations are adapting to changed circumstances and Vohras now mark Anand as a ‘centre’ of their regional community.

To understand such complex intersections of mobility trajectories, a shift is proposed in the scale of attention of the research, from the neighbourhood-in-a-city to the neighbourhood-in-a-region and the neighbourhood-in-a-transnational-network. Mobile methods, particularly travel-along ethnography, can be a productive tool for scholarship of Muslims in South Asia to find a way ‘out of the ghetto’.

Sanderien Verstappen is a lecturer in the Anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam. Verstappen is interested in the anthropology of mobility and place, travel, migration (rural-urban and transnational), the relation between migration and 'development'. She has also studied film and media audiences. As a visual anthropologist, she has used visual methods as a research tool and as research output in addition to text. She has made several documentary films and is currently teaching courses in visual anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.

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