Highlights from Dr. Attiya Ahmad’s talk at the John Hope Franklin Center as part of our weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.
Why are domestic workers converting to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region? In this talk, Dr. Attiya Ahmad presents us with an original analysis of this phenomenon. Using extensive fieldwork conducted among South Asian migrant women in Kuwait, Ahmad argues domestic workers’ Muslim belonging emerges from their work in Kuwaiti households as they develop Islamic piety in relation—but not opposition—to their existing religious practices, family ties, and ethnic and national belonging. Their conversion is less a clean break from their preexisting lives than it is a refashioning in response to their everyday experiences. In examining the connections between migration, labor, gender, and Islam, Ahmad complicates conventional understandings of the dynamics of religious conversion and the feminization of transnational labor migration while proposing the concept of everyday conversion as a way to think more broadly about emergent forms of subjectivity, affinity, and belonging.
Dr. Attiya Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at The George Washington University. Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the gendered interrelation of Islamic reform movements and political economic processes spanning the Middle East and South Asia, in particular, the greater Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. Dr. Ahmad is a Ph.D. from Duke University and recently published her first book, “Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait” (Duke University Press, 2017). Dr. Ahmad is currently examining the development of global halal tourism networks.
This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.