n Journal for Islamic Studies - Evoking moral community, fragmenting Muslim discourse : sermon audio-recordings and the reconfiguration of public debate in Mali

Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0257-7062



The article explores the processes that have allowed Islam to gain great appeal as a community-building idiom in Mali since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1991. Drawing on the mediatic performances of the charismatic preacher Sharif Haidara, the article analyzes how new media technologies facilitate and play into Islam's new prominence and how they influence the particular ways in which Islam is presented in the public sphere. It examines the particular ways audio recording technologies intervene in and complicate the terms of interaction between political regimes and their critics, and thus change the place of religion in postcolonial state politics. Rather than interpret this process as a "resurgence" and threat of religion to secular nation state politics, the article emphasizes the paradoxical effects "small", decentralized media have on the constitution of moral community. Audio recordings enable the move to public prominence of a variety of interpreters of Islam who seek to articulate an Islamic normativity as the basis of the common good. Paradoxically, the same processes that enhance the possibilities of Muslims of various backgrounds and pedigree to participate in public debate simultaneously undermine their appeal to Islamic scholarly consensus. While these processes strengthen these Muslims' possibilities to speak in public, they weaken their capacities to speak as the public, a claim that is pivotal to their quest for collective moral renewal.

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