This seminar deals with the roles of women in the Islamic public sphere. It focuses on the intersections between, and mutual constitution of, religious authority and professional expertise in Malaysia. In the context of mass education, mass mediatisation, and a public sphere saturated with techno-political language, professional experts without Islamic (seminary) education – like doctors, lawyers, or psychologists – can successfully claim religious authority. Islamic preachers, meanwhile, are professionalizing their trade as they combine religious guidance and public performances with knowledge, skills and embodied practices associated with academic, medical and legal professions. David Kloos will use various examples to show how contemporary cultures of professionalism enable these women to engage with contentious religious debates. He will conclude by discussing some of the implications of this for the study of female Islamic authority as well as an emergent anthropology of expertise.
David Kloos is a researcher at KITLV. His main research focus is the history and anthropology of Islam in Southeast Asia.