Rediscovering the “everyday” Muslim: Notes on an anthropological divide

Nadia Fadil, Mayanthi Fernando


This article critically examines recent calls by anthropologists to focus on what they call “everyday Islam.” We locate this new literature within two tensions central to anthropology: first, its dual commitment to humanity’s heterogeneity and commonality, and second, its dual imperative to account for dominant social structures and individual resistance. We argue that the concept of everyday Islam emphasizes one side of these paradigmatic debates, highlighting the universality of humans and emphasizing opposition to norms. We then take up the distinction this literature makes between everyday Muslims and Salafi Muslims. We suggest that a reinvestment in everyday Islam ends up discounting the validity, reality, and ontology of those framed as Salafi Muslims and invalidates ethnographic inquiry into ultra-orthodox Muslim life. Even as scholarship on everyday Islam attempts to expand the anthropology of Islam, then, it restricts the field instead by demarcating anthropology’s proper object of study in a very narrow way.


Everyday Islam, anthropology of religion, ethics, alterity, Salafism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau5.2.005