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Isma'ili Modern

Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community

Jonah Steinberg

Publication Year: 2011

Led by a charismatic European-based hereditary Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, global Isma'ili organizations make available an astonishing array of services--social, economic, political, and religious--to some three to five million subjects stretching from Afghanistan to England, from Pakistan to Tanzania. Steinberg argues that this intricate and highly integrated network enables a new kind of shared identity and citizenship, one that goes well beyond the sense of community maintained by other diasporic populations. Of note in this process is the rapid assimilation in the postcolonial period of once-isolated societies into the intensively centralized Isma'ili structure. Also remarkable is the Isma'ilis' self-presentation, contrary to common characterizations of Islam in the mass media, as a Muslim society that is broadly sympathetic to capitalist systems, opposed to fundamentalism, and distinctly modern in orientation. Steinberg's unique journey into remote mountain regions highlights today's rapidly shifting meanings of citizenship, faith, and identity and reveals their global scale.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

The list of people who were essential in bringing this book to life is too long to enumerate; any attempt to acknowledge all who helped me will necessarily fall short. I owe a great deal to Greg Urban, Asif Agha, Brian Spooner, Bruce Grant, and Stephen Hopkins, as well as to countless colleagues at the University of Vermont. ...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: Beyond Territoriality

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pp. 1-32

The organizational dynamics of the Ismaʿili Muslim community raise important questions about the nature of citizenship and political identity at this moment in history. They present a basic challenge to theoretical and popular understandings of the state, of globalization, and of Islam. ...

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One: Antecedents and Precursors: The Historical Contexts of Isma'ili Globalization

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pp. 33-58

The role of leadership, succession, and schism in the history of Islam warrants careful (albeit brief) consideration here.1 It is only through an understanding of these processes that the story of Ismaʿilism can be fully explained. At almost every historical moment, how the Ismaʿili community defined and redefined itself revolved around questions of succession ...

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Two: Fluid Cartographies: Isma'ili Institutions in Global Context

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pp. 59-86

No instrument has been more significant for the unification and consolidation of disparate communities under a single Ismaʿili banner than the construction of common institutions. These institutions provide the basis for a shared experience despite diverse cultural backgrounds and help develop a sense of commonality or “simultaneity” (see Anderson 1991). ...

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Three: Universalizing Isma'ilism: Institutionalities of Devotion and Regimes of Standardization

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pp. 87-106

Constituting its own separate sphere in the social life of the Ismaʿili transnational structure is a complex of formal institutions whose job is to provide religious advice and to prescribe and regulate proper religious practice. Among the most important of these institutions is the Ismaʿili Tariqah Religious Education Board (ITREB), ...

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Four: Into the Fold: Himalayan Borderlands and Isma'ili Modernity

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pp. 107-142

My perspective to this point has been bound by Ismaʿili institutional structures; I have explored Ismaʿili life so far entirely from within their boundaries. I now shift my perspective from the institutions themselves to their messier, more complex cultural contexts: to the localities they inhabit, the moments they effect, and the subjects they engage. ...

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Five: Living Globality: Local Modes of Transnational Experience

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pp. 143-192

It is in certain moments, and in the spaces they occupy, that the intersection between violence, identity, the global assemblage, and the state comes into its clearest resolution. In such fleeting settings as conferences or children’s plays, suddenly the meaning of the Ismaʿili arrival in remote borderlands comes into focus and begins to make sense. ...

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Conclusion: Decoding Globality: Modern Isma'ilism and the Institutional Encounter

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pp. 193-210

What is the form and meaning of the mosaic that begins now to come into resolution? Certainly something remarkable is embodied in Ismaʿili globality. But the evidence is scattered and fragmentary. It might help to return once again to the question of the subject. ...


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pp. 211-218


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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-234

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603728
E-ISBN-10: 1469603721
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834077
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834076

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks