Emotions and the micro-foundations of religious activism: The bitter-sweet experiences of ‘born-again’ Muslims in Pakistan
The Indian Economic & Social History Review
123 - 145 p.
Pakistan, born-again believers, Islamic activism, emotions, emotion management
Based on the first-person narratives of young born-again Muslims in mid-2000s’ Pakistan, this article points to several ways in which a renewed sociology of self-reform and faith-based activism could usefully draw more systematic attention to emotions. This empirical and inductive study first explores the role of emotions in the micro-foundations of re-Islamisation. It stresses the need to locate the emotive experiences that trigger this process, and sustain it through times and in opposition to others, in the body and the senses. It also discloses specific sensibilities, which, when linked to individual biographies, elucidate why potential followers are receptive, or not, to the various ‘sensitising devices’ deployed by Islamic organisations. In the second section, the expression of emotions is addressed in regard to its collective implications. Indeed, re-Islamisation often translates into rigid emotional boundaries separating the born-again from other communities, the ‘Muslims by birth’ and members of other sects. Reshaping togetherness is nevertheless not devoid of ambivalence: The young born-again Muslims I met in Pakistan were clearly torn between their contemptuous pleasure of occupying the moral high ground and the equally compelling aspiration to be tolerant and abide by the ‘feeling rules’ valued in Islamic ethics. They were also fully aware of the dangerous political implications of their feelings in a country disfigured by sectarian violence.