Cabeiri Robinson, "Body of Victim, Body of Warrior: Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists" (U California Press, 2013)


The idea of jihad is among the most keenly discussed yet one of the least understood concepts in Islam. In her brilliant new book Body of Victim, Body of Warrior: Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists (University of California Press, 2013), Cabeiri Robinson, Associate Professor of International Studies and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington engages the question of what might an anthropology of jihad look like. By shifting the focus from theological and doctrinal discussions on the normative understandings and boundaries of jihad in Islam, Robinson instead asks the question of how people live with perennial violence in their midst? The focus of this book is on the Jihadists of the Kashmir region in the disputed borderlands between India and Pakistan, especially in relation to their experiences as refugees (muhajirs). By combining a riveting ethnography with meticulous historical analysis, Robinson documents the complex ways in which Kashmiri men and women navigate the interaction of violence, politics, and migration. Through a careful reading of Kashmiri Jihadist discourses on human rights, the family, and martyrdom, Robinson convincingly shows that the very categories of warrior, victim, and refugee are always fluid and subject to considerable tension and contestation. In our conversation, we talked about the relationship between the categories of Jihad and Hijra as imagined by Kashmiri Jihadists, the ethical and methodological dilemmas of an ethnographer of Jihad, the mobilization of the human rights discourse by Kashmiri militant groups to legitimate violence, and the intersections of family, sexuality, and martyrdom. All students and scholars of Islam, South Asia, and modern politics must read this fascinating book that was also recently awarded the Bernard Cohn book prize for best first book in South Asian Studies by the Association for Asian Studies.

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SherAli Tareen

SherAli Tareen is Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize and was selected as a finalist for the 2021 American Academy of Religion Book Award. His second book is called Perilous Intimacies: Debating Hindu-Muslim Friendship after Empire (Columbia University Press, 2023). His other academic publications are available here. Listener feedback is most welcome.

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