WP_11-07

Narrating Muslim Women’s Identities in Cape Town

by Rosabelle Boswell

Working Papers WP 11-07
July 2011
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf


Abstract
This paper considers the complexity of Muslim women’s identities in the city of
Cape Town in 2010. It is argued that emerging super-diversity in the form of African immigration, the commercialisation of Islam and increasing freedoms for women in South Africa impact on women’s engagement with religion and diversifies their identity. The paper also offers glimpses into the diversity of Islam in Cape Town, suggesting that this religion is not monolithic in the city and that it is continuously diversified by processes of internal differentiation (i.e. institutional management of belief) as well as external social changes (i.e. the role of the local and national media and broader national politics on identity). In South Africa, unlike some European countries, Islam is not perceived as a threat to national identity. Instead, the history of apartheid (and essentially the suppression of diversity) is encouraging the creation of new spaces for the expression and experience of belief. However, these have not gone unchallenged. Other groups, seeking to maintain or achieve recognition and space in the city are resisting the Islamization of Cape Town. The discussion asks how the delicate process of diversity management will be achieved in Cape Town given its particular demographics.

Keywords: Women, Muslims, diversity management, Cape Town.

Author
Rosabelle Boswell is associate professor of anthropology at Rhodes University, South Africa. She has done research on superdiversity in South Africa, race relations in Mauritius and heritage in the southwest Indian ocean region.
R.Boswell(at)ru.ac.za