Secularism and Belief in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge

Journal of Islamic Studies 22 (3):339-373 (2011)
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This paper discusses the diverse forms of contemporary Islam practised by the Kists, inhabitants of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge related to the Chechens. The newest wave of Salafi-inspired Islam among the young generation of Chechens, mostly men who have fought in the Chechen-Russian war, is aesthetically marked by a distinctive style of minaret and by a more public adhān than Pankisi has hitherto known. The reactions of local Kists to the aesthetics and morality of the new Islam, and the distinctions between Salafi, Wahhabi, and Pankisi Islam are explored. It is argued that the new Islam is not as foreign to the Caucasus as scholarship tends to suggest. Ethnographies of minarets and headstones are followed by an exploration of reactions to Soviet secularism in the historiography of Chechen Islam. Positioning itself within recent scholarship aiming to overcome the constraints imposed by secular forms of knowledge in the study of Islamic societies, the paper seeks to locate the unique modes of Kist belief within the framework of a comparative, post-secular anthropology of Islam
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