Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity

Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity

Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity

Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity


Shabana Mir's powerful ethnographic study of women on Washington, D.C., college campuses reveals that being a young female Muslim in post-9/11 America means experiencing double scrutiny--scrutiny from the Muslim community as well as from the dominant non-Muslim community. Muslim American Women on Campus illuminates the processes by which a group of ethnically diverse American college women, all identifying as Muslim and all raised in the United States, construct their identities during one of the most formative times in their lives.
Mir, an anthropologist of education, focuses on key leisure practices--drinking, dating, and fashion--to probe how Muslim American students adapt to campus life and build social networks that are seamlessly American, Muslim, and youthful. In this lively and highly accessible book, we hear the women's own often poignant voices as they articulate how they find spaces within campus culture as well as their Muslim student communities to grow and assert themselves as individuals, women, and Americans. Mir concludes, however, that institutions of higher learning continue to have much to learn about fostering religious diversity on campus.


INTISAR: [People say,] “How do you handle the
differences [as a Muslim woman]?” Yeah, it’s not an agenda,
you know: every day in the morning you wake up and say, ok,
now I’m going to pray and I’m going to go play basketball! It’s
contradictory, but it’s just life, we just go through it. We don’t
have a journal; we don’t have a schedule every day.

Intisar: Muslim Women in the Spotlight

I met Intisar at one of the informal Muslim gatherings on the fourth floor of the student union at the George Washington University campus. Affectionate and dryly witty, Intisar quickly became a good friend despite the fourteen-year age difference between us. She had a ready reserve of self-deprecating immigrant jokes, as did I, but we had arrived in this country under very different circumstances. I traveled from Pakistan to the United States in the early 1990s as a cash-strapped doctoral student. Intisar, along with her large family headed by a widowed mother, had fled war-torn Somalia as a young child.

When she was in elementary school in the United States, Intisar was acutely aware of the multilayered stigma attached to her as a poor black African refugee and Somali Muslim. But there was one thing she enjoyed at school: she loved basketball—and she played well. This gave her immediate entry into the mainly African American basketball youth culture at school. Suddenly, the poor Somali refugee was a cool kid. She successfully performed being an “integrated” American youth—except that she was acutely aware of her performance.

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