Halaqa As a Place for Navigating Identities and Cultures: An Ethnographic Study of Muslim, Bangladeshi American Youth in Bay Area, California
I have been engaged in a critical ethnographic study (including participant observation, individual interviews, focus group discussions and workshops) of a family-based halaqa organized and run by about Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in California for the last three years. There are about ten to twelve middle-class Bangladeshi immigrant families which attend the halaqa sessions regularly. All the parents are first generation immigrants who were born in Bangladesh and then immigrated to USA; the youth are second generation Bangladeshi Americans who were all born in the USA.
I look at how youth negotiate and contest their ‘hyphenated’, fluid, Muslim-Bangladeshi-American selves in this setting. I also explore how the nature of the halaqa is cosmopolitan: on one hand there is a tendency to focus on Bangaldeshi culture while the other hand there is a tendency to connect with globalized ideas and practices of Islam. Halaqa thus serves as a place for the Muslim-Bangladeshi-American youth to negotiate their fluid identities and connectivity to the Bangladeshi diaspora by practicing their religion and culture while also adapting to life as global citizens.