Location: Bowdoin / Gender and Women's Studies / Redefining the Common Good After Communism / Abstracts / Kristen Ghodsee

Gender and Women's Studies

Kristen Ghodsee

Minarets After Marx: Saudi Islam and Promise of Social Justice in Bulgaria
Kristen Ghodsee, Associate Professor, Bowdoin College
This talk will examine the changing nature of Islam in Bulgaria in the years leading up to and immediately following its accession to the European Union in 2007.  Making up at least thirteen percent of its 7.9 million citizens, Bulgaria’s Muslim minority is the largest of any EU member state.  But unlike the first and second-generation immigrant Muslim minorities in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Muslims in Bulgaria have lived there for centuries, the ethnic and cultural remnants of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. Focusing in on Bulgaria’s Pomak population in the south central region of the country, this paper, based on over 10 months of ethnographic research, will discuss the new forms of “universal” Islam that are displacing traditional interpretations of the Muslim faith. In particular, the talk explores the resonance that this form of Islam has with locals frustrated by the social, political and economic chaos that followed the collapse of communism in 1989.  The Pomaks are reaching out to a global community of Muslims, the Ummah, which is increasingly critical of what is believed to be the moral decadence and depravity of the capitalist West.  Generously financed by Saudi charities and linked in to a every expanding global web of Islamic networks and nongovernmental organizations, the Pomaks are trying to lay a new claim on ideologies that promote solidarity, collective action and social justice in an era of increasing competition, individualism and drastic economic inequality in what was once an entire society dedicated to working together for the higher (though secular) goal of the ever elusive “common good.”