Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2013 Volume 9 :: Article 1
2013 Volume 9, Article 1
Containing the Umma?: Islam and the Territorial Question

Author: Matthew Derrick (Humboldt State University)

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ABSTRACT

The sociopolitical upheavals that appeared suddenly toward the end of 2010 and swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa caught most observers off guard and grasping for explanation. The inability to anticipate these popular uprisings may relate to a widely held understanding of the relationship between Islam and the political-territorial ordering of modernity, namely, the notion that the primacy of the umma—the worldwide commu-nity of Islamic believers—is incompatible with the sovereignty of nation-states. In this article, I first identify and discuss the tendency to underappreciate modern territoriality in shaping contemporary Muslim identities and then, drawing on a range of examples, illustrate how the bases of Muslim identities and the relative significance of Islam to those identities have shifted in relation to changing political-territorial circumstances.

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