"Sometimes I Feel Lost in Transition". Muslim Middle Class Youth in India

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:18
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Stefanie STRULIK, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva, Switzerland
Political and public discourses in India depict the 250-300 Million strong “new middle class“ as the epitome of a globalized and modern India. This portrayal usually omits the existence of Muslim middle class families. The paper questions the tacit equation of middle class with Hindu-Indian modernity by drawing attention to the formation of a new Muslim middle class.

Based on an ethnography of various institutionalized sites in Lucknow (a North India city) that are involved in the production of “middleclassness” the paper is interested in recent transformations for Muslim youth due to economic liberalization, cultural globalization as well as labour migration to the Middle East.

Over the last two decades, the variety of competing lifestyles, contextually shifting subjectivities, moralities and consumption patterns has increased -- and thus the possibilities to make choices and to position oneself. Previous lifestyles are not just replaced with new ones, but continue concurrently, and serve to both construct new imaginaries as well as reconfirm old boundaries. The complexity of everyday has increased ever since. The pressure to feel responsible for one’s own biography, the pressure to perform, to achieve and to make pro-active decisions on what to do with one’s life has amplified.

The paper is interested how Muslim youth are juggling conflicting expectations by peers, the elder generation, religious leaders, and the competitive requirements of the modern employment sector. The focus is on the various strategies deployed by young Indian Muslims in order to negotiate simultaneously national belonging, being part of an “Indian” modernity or even a global modernity while retaining Muslim identifications of various kinds. The paper investigates the entanglements and co-evalness of competing narratives of modernity. Western modernity, thereby, constitutes an important part of Indian Muslim imaginaries without being the only frame of reference.