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Narrating Muslim women’s identities in Cape Town


Boswell,  Rosabelle
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Boswell, R. (2011). Narrating Muslim women’s identities in Cape Town. MMG Working Paper, (11-07).

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.