PhD candidate at Utrecht University. Research project: Moral practices and the mediation of everyday Islam among Zanzibari women, part of NWO Vidi project “Islam and Multicultural Citizenship: Practical Morality and Pluralism in Muslim Public Spheres”. Supervisors: Prof. dr. Patrick Eisenlohr and Dr. Marie-Louise Glebbeek.
The rise of communication technology use on the archipelago of Zanzibar has caused a shift in ideas about and the practice of morality in daily life. Mobile phone and internet use provide global flows of both Islamic and secular images and ideas. Consequently, women become more aware of their position in relation to others on mainland Tanzania and other parts of the world. This awareness is often translated in a tendency to express religion more in daily practice, for instance through social intercourse with men or in the way they dress in public, both online and offline. This ethnographic fieldwork focusses on the interrelationship between communication technology and Islam. The study elaborates on the way women express religiosity and perform social relationships in daily life, both online and offline. National and religious feelings increase and change due to the use of social media. Social relationships are affected by new ways of communication and new ideas about how interaction can take place. Internet and mobile phones are used to intensify social networks and to express religiosity. Further, women use those technologies in mediating love relationships, their secrets and the moral ethics involved in navigating those affairs. Through social media, women negotiate morality as part of their daily lives. Especially for women, the access to information and communication bridges gendered fields of knowledge. Religious information is gained beyond religious spaces like mosques. This gives women new opportunities to negotiate ideas about moral practices. Discourses on media and globalization are diverse and reflect on the one hand fears for change and westernizing influences and distancing from new global effects, and on the other hand the opportunities to incorporate new aspects and modes of communication within daily practices and extend the scope of communication in social relationships.