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.
SC: According to early anthropologists, religion would die out in the modern world, superseded by science and undermined by affluence.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”