Ken ChitwoodNov 11, 2022
The Muslims of Latin America and the Caribbean
Lynn Rienner 2021
Ken Chitwood’s book The Muslims of Latin America and the Caribbean (Lynn Rienner Publishers Inc, 2021) is a provocation to its readers to include Latin American and Caribbean Muslim histories and contemporary expressions of piety in our studies of Islam and Muslim societies, particularly those committed to the theorization of global Islam. The book synthesizes histories and scholarship of Latin American and Caribbean Muslim’s narratives, but also draws on ethnographic study conducted across the hemisphere to provide complex textures and layers to how Muslim identities are constructed and negotiated in diverse regions of Brazil, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and much more.
The first half of the book maps historical lineages and conjectures of Muslim histories and claims that inform Latin American and Caribbean Muslim imaginations, such as of potential pre-Columbian contact, and connections with Spain, as well as the enduring legacies of enslaved African Muslims across the Black Atlantic and indentured servants (from India and Indonesia) and (Arab) immigrants. The second half shifts to contemporary Muslim communities and their various global entanglements as it is informed by Islamic praxis. Some of these expressions act as prisms that illuminate densities of Islamic orthodoxy, economics, capitalism, transnational flows (of material and popular culture), and politics. Examples of some topics discussed include the halal economy in Brazil, Sufi missionary activities in Mexico or contestations for Sunni hegemony over a mosque in Havana, Cuba. These chapters in the latter half of the book are insightful, fascinating, and nuanced case studies that would be of interest to various academic and non-academic readers, but can also be great teaching tools in the classroom as they work as stand-alone chapters. From its rich historical contextualization to its engagement of numerous contemporary issues that overlap and problematize topics of Islamophobia, orientalism, piety, spatial flows, geographies, transnationalism and diaspora, and global Islam, this book is a must read for scholars who work on Islam at the crossroads of various intersections.
Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier.