Field Research Grants

Harini Kumar, Anthropology


My dissertation investigates how Muslims in Tamil Nadu, India, negotiate challenges to long-standing devotional practices. Historically, shrine spaces, typically associated with Sufi practices, have occupied a dominant space in the Tamil Muslim landscape and imaginary. However, in recent decades, the influence of particular kinds of Islamic thought, often understood as orthodox and rigid, are viewed as a new and worrying trend by certain sections of the Muslim community, secular elites, and government investigation agencies. Routine explanations of such a trend—as an aberration or a turn to orthodoxy in reaction to a Hindu majoritarian government and its policies—tend to obscure the ways in which certain forms of Islamic orthodoxy are constituted as a threat, and what and whom they are seen to be threatening. This research project examines the conditions of contemporary Tamil society in which particular affects and anxieties about new forms of religiosity and authority and are generated. My study will ethnographically explore how competing understandings and approaches to questions of Tamil Muslimness and ‘correct’ Islamic practice are shaping everyday social interactions among Muslims in Tamil Nadu.

Harini KumarHarini Kumar is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research focuses on Islamic traditions and practices in South India. She previously obtained a MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a MA in Communication from the University of Hyderabad, India.