Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

A Research Report: Religion and Reproduction Muslim vs. Orthodox Serbs

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

A Research Report: Religion and Reproduction Muslim vs. Orthodox Serbs

Article excerpt

This paper seeks to shed light on demographic differences between Muslim and Christian Orthodox populations in the Sandzak region, southwestern Serbia. The paper draws upon data collected in the course of anthropological fieldwork studies in the region. Demographic differences in this area are closely linked to the differences in religious affiliation that reinforce behavioral norms and promote compliance

Key Words: Demography; Serbia; Muslim vs. Christian differences.

The European Muslim population provokes a growing interest as evidenced by many academic reports and media coverage as well. Europe's shifting immigration policies has created around 10 to 13 million Muslims immigrants, while estimates vary considerably about the total number of Muslims in Europe (Ben-David 2009). Historians estimate that by 2100, Muslims will compose about 25% of Europe's population including Muslim's illegally resident population (Jenkins 2006). Media frame this issue as "a question of whether you can have the same Europe with different people" (Caldwell 2009, 26). And while Muslim population figures continue to grow in Europe, this "demographic-time bomb" (Michaels 2009) cannot be attributed only to the high rates of immigration.

For example, previous studies (Cvorovic 2011, Cvorovic 2004) have found considerable demographic and behavioral differences between Muslim Gypsies and the Romanianderived Orthodox Gypsies living in Serbia. Serbian Muslim Gypsies incline toward a low investment mode of reproduction, having an earlier age at initial reproduction, more children, more marriages and less parental care than their Christian counterparts, despite living in similar conditions. It was proposed the differences of the two religious traditions might be responsible for the differences in life history and reproductive strategy between the two Gypsy populations. To inspect this issue further, I examined several behavioral outcomes of 235 Serbian non-Gypsy Muslims and 128 Christian Orthodox Serbs, living in the southern Serbian area of Sandzak.

Data for this study were collected during 2006-07 (Rushton and Cvorovic 2009) and 2011; data collection involved extensive anthropological fieldwork relying on extensive personal interviews in the Sandzak region. The data include marital and reproductive histories and culturally prescribed behaviors along with basic demography from inhabitants of three Sandzak settlements. Historical background reveals the area became gradually Islamized since the 15th century and the coming of Turks (Jovanovic 1993). Today, it is an area with the largest concentration of Serbian Muslims, known as Bosniaks. The other populations constituting national or ethnic minorities, consist of Orthodox Serbs and Montenegrins, and smaller groups of Turks and Albanians. In this area, religion plays an influential role in defining the social identity of its followers. The populations are largely gender stratified, characterized by patrilineal descent, patrilocal residence, and hierarchical relations in which the patriarch or his relatives have considerable autonomy over family members, regardless of the religious affiliation. Strong control is exerted on women in almost every sphere of their lives: freedom of movement, decisions in family affairs, economic independence, and their relation with their husbands. All cultures in the region have been characterized by an ethic of "honor and shame" (Dickemann 1981, Cvorovic 2008), female chastity being perhaps the most important element of familial honor. Sandzak is one of the poorest areas of Serbia, exacerbated during the beginning of the transition period, which produced mass unemployment. Many local people engage in a not-so-secret black economy, smuggling goods to and from Serbia to Kosovo and taking advantage of differences in prices and duties. According to the National Employment Agency, about one third of local, healthy working-age adults are jobless, where young women make more than 40%. …

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