The historical convergence of European imperialism and technological innovation in communication and travel made multiple social sites of intersection between the local and global...

The historical convergence of European imperialism and technological innovation in communication and travel made multiple social sites of intersection between the local and global possible. Nile Green, Professor of South Asian and Islamic history at UCLA, examines how these terrains of exchange transformed Islam during the modern period from roughly 1800-1940 in his book, Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam (Oxford University Press, 2015). Green sees religion as a tool for social power and explores various religious economies to determine how interpretations of Islam are negotiated and deployed. What he shows is that modern iterations of the tradition are often shaped not only by Muslims, but also Christians and Hindus. In these sites of exchange religious actors and institutions can be analyzed as entrepreneurs and firms, which effectively compete for their clientele. Religious entrepreneurial competition and innovation fostered by Muslim/Christian interactions in imperial contexts contributed to the Muslims’ adaptation of Christian missionary methods for their own proselytization purposes.

Overall, Green presents a world history of Islam that disrupts assertions of the unifying power of globalization on Muslims and illustrates the generative process within these terrains of exchange. In our conversation we discussed evangelical orientalism at England’s universities, Bibles and printing in Muslim societies, language-exchange, religious entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, traditions of Hindu-Sufism, and the construction of the first mosques in Detroit and Japan.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kjpetersen@unomaha.edu.

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