In this seminar, David Kloos will discuss the roles of women in the Malaysian Islamic public sphere. He will focus on the intersections between, and mutual constitution of, religious authority and professional expertise. In the context of mass education, mass meditization, and a public sphere saturated with techno-political language, professional experts without Islamic (seminary) eduation – 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 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 the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, The Netherlands. His main research interest lies in the history and anthropology of Islam in Southeast Asia. Recent publications include Becoming Better Muslims: Religious Authority and Ethical Improvement in Aceh, Indonesia (Princeton University Press, 2018) and Straying from the Straight Path: How Senses of Failure Invigorate Lived Religion (co-edited with Daan Beekers, Berghahn Books, 2018). His new book project deals with female Islamic authority and public communication in Malaysia.

This seminar is co-organised by the Department of Social Anthropology and the Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.