Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In this study, I emphasize the agency of the Malian arabisant community (individuals usually trained in médersas who use Arabic as their first language of communication and who often identify first and foremost as Muslims) in creating, maintaining, and improving an education system which provides the tools needed for young Malians to be pious Muslims and productive citizens of the Republic of Mali. By creating an extensive médersa system over the years, in collaboration and confrontation with the successive governments in Mali and abroad, Malian arabisants have answered the need for a new definition of what it is to be a modern Muslim democrat in a secular democracy. I suggest that the specific formation of the educational system in Mali is related to the development of the uniquely Malian configuration of what it is to be an arabisant.
I show how médersas have allowed and still encourage the development of a new mentality that gives Malian Muslims the tools necessary to re-define themselves in their own environment. Malian arabisants have reformulated their religious practice and sociability towards what has been called Islam mondain: a moralization of the mundane. One's energy is focused on morally purifying daily life in order to render it “islamically” sound while living in an environment that is not Islamic per se. It is an internalization of faith that allows the believer to enjoy the benefits of a rapidly modernizing environment by re-imagining both modernity and tradition as compatible and complementary. Islam mondain offers a model for virtuous socio-economic comfort, and an islamization of the benefits of globalization and modernization that renders them morally pure.
This research thus contributes to the theoretical and anthropological study of Islam as a lived faith in a secular democracy; such a study is central to an understanding of the developing relationships between Islam, modernity, and secular democracy across the Muslim world. It also speaks to the very current issues faced by Muslims living in “Western” countries and vice versa. This research illustrates the agency of the Malian arabisants in defining their relationship to modernity and democracy, and thus engages with the variety of research that shows other Muslim communities in the world also engaged in such a re-definition of themselves and of their tradition.
Roy, Émilie, "Educating Pious Citizens: Local Politics, International Funding, and Democracy in Bamako's Islamic Schools." (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7335.
McMaster University Library