Anthropology of Islam

Module titleAnthropology of Islam
Module codeANT2017
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Geoffrey Hughes (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will explore the anthropology of Islam, emphasizing the diversity of the Islamic tradition and how various currents within Islam challenge some of the most cherished assumptions of ‘Western’ social theory. In the first half of the module you will be d to introduce a range of textual, historical, sociological and ethnographic approaches to the study of Islam. In the second half of the module you will be presented with a range of case studies looking at how historical and contemporary Muslim societies have struggled with fundamental questions about the human condition, offering alternative conceptions of kinship, gender, economics, space, locality, secularism, and modernity in the process.

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will be introduced to a range of approaches to the study of the Islam, including hermeneutics, ethnography, anthropology, and history, among others. You will then apply these analytical tools to a range of historical cases to explore the diversity of Islamic lifeworlds, with an emphasis on how Islam invites us to rethink fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Through a guided research project, you will develop your own personal approach to the study of Islam and then apply that approach to a particular contemporary or historical Islamic community of your own choosing.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with the major contemporary approaches to the study of Islam;
  • 2. Show a developed understanding of specific issues related to the study of Islam, including definitional matters, the difficulty of defining the boundaries of ‘Islam’, and the limits of text-based approaches;
  • 3. Show a developed understanding of central concerns within contemporary and historical Islamic communities like space, locality, gender, kinship, economics, modernity and secularism.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Apply various theories and methodologies to specific cases;
  • 5. Show competence in critically assessing claims about Islam
  • 6. Think clearly about the social, political, and anthropological implications of Islam.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Communicate effectively in written and oral form;
  • 8. Engage in cross-cultural translation and comparison;
  • 9. conduct research on a topic and organize findings in written form in a compelling manner.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam
  • Ethnographic Approaches to the Study of Islam
  • Islamic Origin Narratives
  • The Hermeneutics of Suspicion
  • Islam’s Role in the Origins of ‘Western’ Civilisation
  • Islam, Space, and Locality
  • Islamic Gender and Kinship
  • Islamic Economics
  • Islamic Modernity
  • Islam, Secularism, and Post-Islamism

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity1111 x 1 Hour Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity1111 x 1 Hour Seminars
Guided Independent Study12Research Paper Proposal
Guided Independent Study56Weekly Reading for seminars
Guided Independent Study20Exam Preparation
Guided Independent Study40Research Paper


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Paper Proposal750 words1-9Written and Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Paper702500 words1-9Written
Exam301 hour1-8Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research PaperResearch Paper (2500 words)1-9August/September reassessment period
ExamExamination (1 hour)1-8August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Abdullah, Z. 2010. Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Asad, T. 2003. Formations of the Secular. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Bayat, A. 2013. Post-Islamism: The Many Faces of Political Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crone, P. and Cook, M. 1977. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Deeb, L. 2006. An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi’i Lebanon. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Geertz, C. 1968. Islam Observed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mahmood 2004. The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Maurer, B. 2002. “Repressed Futures: Financial Derivatives’ Theological Unconscious.” Economy and Society 31(1): 15-36.

Qutb, S. 1949. Social Justice in Islam. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.

Said, E. 1980 “Islam Through Western Eyes.” The Nation.

Tobin, S. 2016. Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Anthropology, Islam, Religion, Religious Studies.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date