Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sarah A. Tobin's "Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan"

Sarah A. Tobin is the Associate Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan is a wonderful window into the larger book. The page starts out describing the Islamic veiling practices of an employee at an Islamic bank named Eman. As a practicing Muslim who did not wear the head covering outside of her place of employment but was required to do so at work (and did so in with an unusual fashion style), Eman was subject of much ridicule and derisive comments by other employees at the bank.

The case of Eman found on page 99 demonstrates two aspects of the larger book. First, it reveals much about the ethnical underpinnings of one of the book’s ethnographic cases – the Islamic head covering, or hijab, in Jordan. The guiding, normative principle at play is that women experience much pressure to don the hijab, which is made even more pronounced by employment at an Islamic bank. The way that many women opt to get around this and avoid this expectation is by indicating that they respect the hijab so much and take it so seriously that they are not “ready yet” to put it on. This calculated practice is tested in Eman’s case and reveals the limitations of it.

Secondly, this case demonstrates the larger argument of the book, which is that while Muslims in Jordan are Islamizing their economic activity – such as through the Islamic banking and finance industry and Islamized consumption – they are also economizing their religious life. This means that such actions in one’s religious life – donning the hijab, fasting for Ramadan, praying and comporting oneself as an “authentic” Muslim – are subject to a whole host of economic calculations of maximizing rewards, limiting risk, and cost-benefit analysis. This neoliberalization of pious life, I argue, is the everyday piety for middle class Muslims in Jordan and beyond.
Learn more about Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue