Free and open to the public
Although no Caribbean country has a Muslim majority population, Islam has been an important presence for at least five centuries. The major conduits of Islam in the region were labor schemes: African slavery and Indian indenture. At the same time, Islam’s Caribbean journeys included explorers and emigrants who hailed from diverse societies and cultures around the globe, and who have been devotees of varying schools of Islamic thought. Scholarship on Caribbean Islam and Muslims typically has emphasized either Africans or Indians, although also acknowledging the heterogeneous practitioners and practices that define them. These complexities have important implications for the ways that racial and religious identities are characterized with regard to Caribbean Muslims. Based on my forthcoming book, my presentation considers the ways that “African” and “Indian” racial identities in the Caribbean are constituted through their historical intersection with ideas about religion and religious identities. I argue that this nexus—the racialization of religion and religionization of race—is key to understanding the hierarchies of human “types” that inform the perception and the practice of Islam in the colonial and post-independence eras. My discussion will draw from the Caribbean cultural phenomenon known as “Hosay,” the region’s local version of the Islamic mourning ritual, Muharram.
Aisha Khan is associate professor of anthropology, New York University. Her publications include Callaloo Nation: Metaphors of Race and Religious Identity among South Asians in Trinidad (2004), Islam and the Americas (2015), Empirical Futures: Anthropologists and Historians Engage the Work of Sidney W. Mintz (2009), and A Rogue’s Gallery: The Troubled Inheritance of Race and Religion in the Making of a Modern West Indies (forthcoming).