An Alternative Approach to Fieldwork in Transnational Sufism
Keywords:anthropology of Islam, modern Sufism, Qādirīyah, Sufi Orders, Sufism twentieth century, transnational Sufism
Few of those who have undertaken fieldwork among members of Sufi Orders have openly discussed the challenges involved. The present article examines a number of issues which were encountered whilst carrying out ethnographic research among devotees of the transnational Q?diriyya. It argues that knowledge derived from ethnographical investigation is subjective and partial by nature, and that engaging with its resulting ambiguities and contradictions leads to a more nuanced, real, and less representational, perspective. This article explores certain themes: first, it examines how gender determined the scope of the research and circumscribed the possibilities of data collection. Second, it analyses some of the peculiarities involved in conducting multi-sited fieldwork in a transnational religious organization. Third, it raises specific methodological concerns with regard to the often transitory nature of membership of this ?ar?qa. Finally, it discusses how the present author coped with religious proselytization and its potential effects on the relationship between devotees and researcher.
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