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Quranic Women's Schools in China’s Little Mecca

Thursday 30 March 2017
WHAT's NEW!? Spring Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Quranic Women's Schools in China’s Little Mecca

This study is based on the findings of my past six fieldworks, carried out in Linxia Huizu Autonomous Prefecture (South Gansu province), with particular attention paid to Linxia city, also known as “Little Mecca”, over a ten-year time period (2006-2016). It analyses the ways local Muslim women bring together different visions of shari'a orthopraxy – derived from their exclusive affiliation to competing religious denominations (jiaopai menhuan) – within the walls of the Quranic school. My enquiry attempts to demonstrate how this “coalescence” reflects local inter-denominational tensions but also perpetrates ties of coresponsibility versus a culturally alien Other – the secular state – as a strategy for the preservation of Linxia's Muslim community as a whole, faced with modernisation, rejuvenated ties with the Middle East, and the latest CCP's policies on Islam.

To pious, uneducated Muslim women, the Quranic school – flourished between the 1980’s and the 90’s following Deng Xiaoping’s reform policies on gender equality and minorities rights –provides an “ethical” public space for practicing Islam, and also enables women to enter the local job market as teachers, principals or interpreters, that is, as members of a self-sustained “moral economy” fostered through a supportive network of semi-professionals fellow Muslims. This study will use an interdisciplinary approach involving discussion of embodiment of gendered religious norms, ideological differences and cultural (in)compatibilities among Linxia's denominations, as well as the schools' response to the state's rhetoric and regulations about religious practice, in the hope to make up for a lack of detail in previous studies on the role of Muslim women in the identity-redrawing process of China’s “Little Mecca”.

About Francesca Rosati

Francesca Rosati, born in Rome, Italy, has being doing doing research on Women's Quranis school in Northwestern China for ten years. She got her MA degree in Ethnology at the National Taiwan Cheng-chi University in 2009. In 2015 she was awarded the CEFC Doctoral Mobility Grant to carry out a nine months fieldwork research in the Linxia Huizu Autonomous Prefecture (South Gansu province).

Francesca Rosati
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