Feb 8th 2017

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer discusses “Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States.” She will be joined in conversation by Alireza Doostdar.

Presented in partnership with Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture

At the Co-op

About the book: This groundbreaking study of race, religion and popular culture in the 21st century United States focuses on a new concept, “Muslim Cool.” “Muslim Cool” is a way of being an American Muslim—displayed in ideas, dress, social activism in the ’hood, and in complex relationships to state power. Constructed through hip hop and the performance of Blackness, “Muslim Cool” is a way of engaging with the Black American experience by both Black and non-Black young Muslims that challenges racist norms in the U.S. as well as dominant ethnic and religious structures within American Muslim communities.

Drawing on over two years of ethnographic research, Su’ad Abdul Khabeer illuminates the ways in which young and multiethnic U.S. Muslims draw on Blackness to construct their identities as Muslims. This is a form of critical Muslim self-making that builds on interconnections and intersections, rather than divisions between “Black” and “Muslim.” Thus, by countering the notion that Blackness and the Muslim experience are fundamentally different, “Muslim Cool” poses a critical challenge to dominant ideas that Muslims are “foreign” to the United States and puts Blackness at the center of the study of American Islam. Yet “Muslim Cool” also demonstrates that connections to Blackness made through hip hop are critical and contested—critical because they push back against the pervasive phenomenon of anti-Blackness and contested because questions of race, class, gender, and nationality continue to complicate self-making in the United States.

About the author: Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist who uses anthropology and performance to explore the intersections of race and popular culture. Su’ad is currently an assistant professor of anthropology and African American studies at Purdue University. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Princeton University and is a graduate from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and completed the Islamic Studies diploma program of the Institute at Abu Nour University (Damascus). Her latest work, “Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States” (NYU Press 2016), is an ethnography on Islam and hip hop that examines how intersecting ideas of Muslimness and Blackness challenge and reproduce the meanings of race in the US. Su’ad’s written work on Islam and hip hop is accompanied by her performance ethnography, “Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life.” Sampled is a one-woman solo performance designed to present and represent her research and findings to diverse audiences as part of her commitment to public scholarship.

In line with this commitment Su’ad leads Sapelo Square, the first website dedicated to the comprehensive documentation and analysis of the Black US American Muslim experience. She has also written for “The Root,” “the Washington Post,” “the Atlantic,” “Ebony Magazine,” “the Huffington Post,” “Religious Dispatches and Trans/Missions,” and has appeared on “Al Jazeera English.” Additionally, Su’ad is a Senior Project Advisor for the US Public Television award-winning documentary, “New Muslim Cool” and her poetry was featured in the anthology “Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak.”

About the interlocutor: Alireza Doostdar teaches courses on social theory, modern Islam, and Iranian politics and history. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. His first book, forthcoming with Princeton University Press, is titled “The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny.” The book examines the rationalization of the supernatural “unseen” since the early twentieth century through scientization and campaigns against superstition. It argues that rather than diminishing the domain of the Islamic unseen, these practices have expanded and transformed it by making it commensurable with a range of modern Western esoteric knowledges and practices – including Spiritist séances and New Age therapeutic spirituality. Doostdar’s other interests include Islamic spiritual cinema and the decades-old project of Islamizing the social sciences in Iran.

About the co-sponsor: The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture was established by Michael C. Dawson, with a founding conference taking place in June of 1996 entitled, “Race and Voice: Challenges for the 21st Century.” From its inception, CSRPC faculty affiliates, students, and staff have been committed to establishing a new type of research institute devoted to the study of race and ethnicity, one that seeks to expand the study of race beyond the black/white paradigm while exploring social and identity cleavages within racialized communities.

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