A Social Critique of Religious Judgment

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Fareen PARVEZ , Sociology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA
This paper examines the concept of symbolic violence through an analysis of class-based religious judgment within Muslim minority communities. It draws specifically on a two-year ethnographic comparative study of religious communities in France and India. Across the cases, middle-class and elite practicing Muslims overtly judged poor and working-class worshippers as "fundamentalist" and regressive for their gendered and other practices. Practices like the burqa, for example, were more prominent among the poor and subaltern. But to middle-class and elite Muslims (who are also subject to their own symbolic violence in larger society), the burqa represents a vulgar aesthetic, an overly literal understanding of an abstract Quranic principle. The paper presents the cultural processes of exerting such symbolic violence against subaltern Muslims while also showing how this is a symbolic struggle for religious (and other) recognition – in which the terms of the struggle are set by the language of the state. The comparative design of the larger study allows a deeper exploration of symbolic violence. In France, my subaltern companions in the field were far less complicit in their domination, or unlikely to internalize the ‘classifications’ of the middle-class. In India, class judgment was interwoven with a long-standing culture of loving paternalism that feeds cross-class alliances and a vast network of Muslim philanthropy. In this context, impoverished Muslims are thereby more complicit in their domination. These differences force us to consider the cultural embeddedness of symbolic violence. They also force us to ask: what is to be gained analytically by viewing such culturally and politically specific dynamics as symbolic violence? The paper explores these issues with reference to Bourdieu, Weber’s focus on conscious belief in the support of legitimate domination, as well as Frantz Fanon’s theorization of internalized inferiority.