Closed Worlds: (Not) Accessing Deobandi dar ul-uloom in Britain
Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2005)
Journal: Fieldwork in Religion
Subject Areas: Religious Studies Linguistics
This article reports upon the unsuccessful efforts made to negotiate research access to four Deobandi dar ul-uloom (Islamic ‘seminaries’) in the UK. I describe the attempts that I (and others) have made to conduct research in these institutions, and consider various ways that refusal might be interpreted. I explain why access has been problematic, principally on account of the history of the institutions, the nature of the setting, the current socio-political climate, and the ‘anathema’ of fieldwork and ethnographic research to the institutions themselves. But even when researchers are denied access, I argue that this nevertheless counts as ‘data’, and that there are ways of redressing the apparent imbalance of power. Locating my experiences within current debates and literature in sociology, anthropology and ethnography I reflect upon the strategies that researchers might employ to overcome access difficulties, especially when their research might be considered ‘sensitive’ on account of the setting or the topic.
Author: Sophie Gilliat-Ray