Fifty mosques in Tower Hamlets: Religion, modernity, and postmodernity

Tower Hamlets, one of the most ethnically diverse zones in Europe. Source: Wikipedia

By Sean Carey

According to nineteenth century anthropologists, religion would disappear with modernity, supplanted by science. Not so. Fifty mosques exist in the Tower Hamlets borough of London alone.

In this post, Sean Carey talks with  John Eade, professor of sociology and anthropology at Roehampton University and former Executive Director of CRONEM (Centre for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism), which linked Roehampton and the University of Surrey.

After research in Kolkata (Calcutta) on the social identity of the educated Bengali Muslim middle class, Eades completed his Ph.D. in 1986 on Bangladeshi community politics in Tower Hamlets.  Since then he has researched the Islamization of urban space, globalization and the global city, British Bangladeshi identity politics, and travel and pilgrimage. He recently co-founded two book series: the Routledge Series on Religion, Travel and Tourism and the Ashgate Series on Pilgrimage.

SC: You favor a post-modern approach to the study of society. Can you explain what this is?

JE: Post-modernity means different things to different people, of course, but I associate it with the crucial change in Britain and other highly developed capitalist economies bound up with the decline of industrial society and the advance of a post-industrial order dominated by the “service sector.” This sector comprises business and financial services, media, advertising and the “cultural industry,” IT (informational technology), and high tech enterprises, as well as the professions such as medicine, law and education. The sector is based around consumption and encourages us to be the consumers of goods, images, and information organized on an increasingly global scale.

Socially, industrial decline and the advance of work in services has meant the replacement of tightly knit local communities with looser networks which may stretch across national borders (transnationalism), may reflect individual choices much more, and be encouraged by global communications associated with IT and high tech innovation. The former wool and cotton towns in northern England provide example of industrial decline while London, a highly globalized city, demonstrates the transformations wrought by the post-industrial dominance of the service sector.

In 1986, the East London Mosque was one of the first in Europe to be allowed to use loudspeakers to broadcast the adhan. Source: Wikipedia

SC: According to early anthropologists, religion would die out in the modern world, superseded by science and undermined by affluence. It hasn’t quite worked out like that, including in globalizing cities such as London. What’s going on? Continue reading “Fifty mosques in Tower Hamlets: Religion, modernity, and postmodernity”

50 Best Cultural Anthropology Dissertations of 2014

See also the best cultural anthropology dissertations of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

As in previous years, I did a key word search in Dissertation Abstracts International to find dissertations defended in 2014 that address topics related to the anthropologyworks mission. I continue to regret that this source provides information almost exclusively on U.S. dissertations, in other words, it is not “international.”

“Best” means my “best” picks: dissertations that connect to major global issues. My search terms were human rights, justice, migration, gender/women, health, violence, conflict, environment, food, and energy.

As you may imagine, I do not read the entire dissertations, only the abstracts. My selection is based on the abstracts – and the topics as described therein. So maybe I should retitle this post as the 50 Most Important Cultural Anthropology Dissertations.

The dissertations are ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name. Dissertations are not generally available through open access. Here are my 50 picks for 2014. I was excited to read about them, and I hope you will be, too.

  • Can Anyone with Low Income Be Food Secure?: Mitigating Food Insecurity among Low Income Households with Children in the Tampa Bay Area, by Edgar Allan Amador. University of South Florida. Advisor: David Himmelgreen.

This study compares households with children at different levels of food security and insecurity using the USDA Core Food Security Module (CFSM) and an ethnographically informed analysis of coping. I seek to understand the differences between at-risk households in order to determine why some fall into more severe food insecurity while other manage to avoid it. Data on food security, demographics, use of food assistance programs, shared cultural models for food, food shopping behavior, food consumption, and measures of depression and anxiety were collected from 207 households. Future studies should explore how food insecurity and stress affect household relationships.

  • Logics of Sacrifice: An Ethnography of the Makah Whaling Conflict, by Leslie E. Beldo, Jr. The University of Chicago. Advisor: Richard A. Shweder.

This dissertation examines the ethics of human-animal interaction at work in the continued conflict over Makah indigenous whaling in the state of Washington. I argue that contemporary Makah whaling is driven as much by tribal members’ refusal to back down in the face of outside resistance as it is an affirmation of tribal identity and sovereignty. In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Native American tribal identities were formed in the course of legal battles for fishing rights throughout the twentieth century. The dissertation takes anti-whaling activists seriously in their suggestion that Makah whaling is an environmental issue and an animal issue as much as it is a Native American sovereignty issue. Continue reading “50 Best Cultural Anthropology Dissertations of 2014”

PBS documentary on an Indian American woman's experiences in returning to India

We are excited to announce the DVD and digital release of Crossing Lines, an award-winning PBS documentary that explores the journey of an Indian-American woman’s return to India for the first time after her father’s death.

“Watch this documentary and give your kid a hug, especially if she is a girl.”
Ashfaque Swapan, India-West

“… in my Intercultural Communication class I showed Crossing Lines.  I show it every semester I teach the class.  The students were very moved by it.  One was in tears, literally.”  Jim Neuliep, Ph.D. St. Norbert College, De Pere, WI

Like most second-generation ethnic Americans, Indira Somani has struggled with identity issues since her parents migrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.  Born and raised in the U.S., Indira led an American life, but at home her world was Indian.  Crossing Lines takes you on a journey to India, where Indira visits her father’s extended family for the first time after his death.  It is the story of how one daughter pays tribute to her father in all that he’s taught her about India, Indian culture and family.

A favorite at festivals around the world, Crossing Lines has also aired on over 100 PBS affiliates across the U.S. and has been purchased by nearly 100 universities including Harvard, Yale, University of California- Berkeley, Arizona State University, University of Texas-Austin, Seattle Community College, University of Illinois and University of Denver.

“[Indira’s] wonderful, poignant and personal story is one that like so many American stories reaches across oceans and continents in search of our family histories and truths,” Peter Bhatia, Executive Editor, The Oregonian.

“[The film] sketches a more universal story of the problems that Asian immigrants face in reconciling homelands with adopted lands.” Radhika Parameswaran, Ph.D., Critical Cultural Studies Scholar,Indiana University.

Purchase a copy of the film at our website, or call us at 1-888-367-9154. The film can be directly ordered on the website, and a study guide for educators can be downloaded.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions or to book as guest speakers. We hope you’ll consider making Crossing Lines a part of your library’s collection!

Gaza: What you can do

Without doubt many people are following the devastating attack on Gaza and may be wondering if there is anything they can do to help. If you are interested in donating to assist Gaza’s population, one excellent organization is ANERA ( They have been doing exemplary work in Gaza (along with the West Bank and Lebanon) for a long time and are trying very hard to keep it up even under these devastating conditions.

And if you are looking for something to do, consider supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) call that will be coming to the American Anthropological Association. It is likely that there will be a resolution at this year’s AAA meeting for the membership to vote on. Certainly, there are a number of panels and roundtables on the AAA program to allow for discussion of this issue.

Ilana Feldman
Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs
George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052

CIGA Working Paper by GW graduate, Greyson Conant Brooks

A CIGA working paper, The Lighthouse and the Landing Pad: Transnational Commodification of a Global Gay Identity and a Ugandan LGBTI Rights NGO, is now available.

The author of this paper, Greyson Conant Brooks, holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Colby College and an M.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in International Development from the George Washington University. He wishes to acknowledge and thank the following for financial, logistical, analytical, and personal support: the activists and advocates at SMUG, The Lewis N. Cotlow Fund at GW, Stephen Lubkemann, Barbara Miller, Attiya Ahmad, Ujala Dhaka-Kintgen, Erica Wortham, Melissa Minor Peters, Tina Levine, Steven Barry, Leslee Brooks, Stanley Brooks, and Michael Barry. Continue reading “CIGA Working Paper by GW graduate, Greyson Conant Brooks”

“Wrestling on the page” about contemporary Tibet

On the Insight Tibet blog, Dr. Tashi Rabgey, research professor in international affairs at GW, reports on a talk by Dr. Tenzin Jinba, professor of sociology and anthropology at Lanzhou University, China, and is currently a program fellow in agrarian studies at Yale University.

The February 3 event was sponsored by the Tibet Governance Project of the Elliott School’s Institute for Global and International Studies. It was entitled: Gender, Identity Politics and State-Society Relations on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier and was based on the author’s 2014 book, In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border (University of Washington Press, 2014).

Dr. Rabgey applauds Dr. Jinbo for: “…his willingness to wrestle on the page with…questions of Tibetan identity politics, he has not only provided a refreshing new standpoint on the politics of ethnicity and ethnic representation in the context of Tibet…[and] he has also thrown down the gauntlet for the debate-to-come about the collision of Tibetan and Chinese nationhood.”

DC event: Ethno-linguistic research with Himalayan communities

The Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering voices series presents at talk on Shamans, Activists, and Word Hunters: Ethno-linguistic Research Collaborations with Himalayan Communities by Sara Shneiderman, Yale University, and  Mark Turin, University of Cambridge and Yale University.

When: Friday, February 14th, 3:30 pm

Where: Rose Room, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

This presentation addresses the dynamics of long-term research partnerships with historically marginalized communities. The presenters will discuss the ethnographic, linguistic, and political dimensions of their collaborations with members of the Thangmi community in the eastern Himalayas over almost 20 years, as an anthropologist and linguist respectively. Thangmi is an endangered indigenous Tibeto-Burman language spoken by a community of the same name in India and Nepal.


Note: attendees without Smithsonian credentials will need to be escorted to the seminar room, which we are happy to do. If you need an escort please email at least 24 hours before the lecture.

If you would like to be added to the Recovering Voices events mailing list, please send a message to


2014 anthropology methods courses supported by the National Science Foundation

Now in its tenth year, the SCRM (Short Courses on Research Methods) program is for cultural anthropologists who already have the Ph.D. Two, five-day courses are offered during summer 2014 at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Now in its tenth year, the WRMA (Workshops in Research Methods in Anthropology) program offers one-day workshops in conjunction with the national meetings of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Now in its third year, the DCRM (Distance Courses in Research Methods in Anthropology) is open to upper division undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. Five courses are offered in summer 2014:

  • Text Analysis
  • Geospatial Analysis
  • Network Analysis
  • Video Analysis
  • Methods of Behavioral Observation.

The development of these fee-based courses is supported by the National Science Foundation. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants.

Opportunity: Residential Scholar in Anthropology at the University of Arizona

The University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology is seeking applications for the School’s Summer 2014 Residential Scholar. Deadline for application is February 23, 2104.

The school encourages applications from all fields of anthropology. During residency, the scholar will be expected to contribute to the teaching mission in the School of Anthropology through a lecture, workshop, or other form of scholarly interaction.

For more information: