Emilie Roy

Researcher Profile – Emilie Roy

Dr Emilie Roy holds an M.A. in Sciences Sociales des Religions (2007) from Université Laval and a Ph.D (2012) in Religious Studies from McMaster University. Based on extensive fieldwork, her graduate research explored the tensions between local construction of Islamic identity and international (mostly Saudi and Libyan) funding in Bamako’s Islamic schools. Her current research interests, building upon the work already done, focus on the interplay of modernity and tradition in Islamic schools and the development of self-conscious, pious, modern, political actors in Muslim-majority West Africa.
She is currently chair of the M.A. in Islamic Studies and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology at Al Akhawayn University. Building on her doctoral work, Dr Roy is mainly interested in exploring how transnational flows of money, coupled with a variety of Islamic religious ideologies, work to construct “Islamic” identities on the ground in West Africa.

“I focus on Islamic education in Bamako, the capital of Mali. I spent two years in Bamako where I interviewed various employees and owners of médersas (private Islamic schools also teaching the secular curriculum) while simultaneously spending a great deal of time in the classrooms of the médersas, where I undertook participant-observation fieldwork. Through this field research I have come to the conclusion that Malian Islamic schools and their constituencies, although influenced by the religious and political ideologies at work in the broader Middle East, are active participants in defining the relations between Islamic piety and citizenship in a secular state.”

The study details how the arabisants have reformulated their religious practice and social values towards what has been called “islam mondain,” a term which refers to a moralisation of the mundane not completely unlike a re-invention of the protestant ethic.

“My research thus contributes to the anthropological understanding of Islam as a lived faith in a secular democracy, and offers critical insights into our understanding of the developing relationships between Islam, modernity, and secular democracy.”

Additionally, Dr Roy has reflected upon and published on issues that arise from her interest in Islamic education and her current position teaching social sciences, and anthropology of Islam in particular, to a cohort of imams in the master program in Islamic studies at Al Akhawayn University. In her study, she explored the positionality of the professor faced with a group of students participating in a different epistemological tradition and discussed the teaching methods required to make the transition from one epistemological tradition to the other possible and the possibility or reconciling these two traditions.

“In the anthropological tradition that encourages it, this work is a self-reflexive endeavour that seeks to explore my role as an instructor in relation to my students but it sparked new avenues for research for me: Using the ethnographic methods with which I am familiar, I seek to understand the ways in which young Muslims make sense of, reconcile, and use the knowledge imparted to them in Islamic schools or academic programs explicitly aiming at both religious and secular education.”

As a Cadbury Fellow, Dr Roy will be working on the arabisants of Mali. The arabisants, graduates from and employees of Bamako’s Islamic schooling system, form a self-conscious Muslim constituency of pious Muslims, productive citizens and active agents in the officially secular public sphere. The arabisants, as a social, un-organized, multipurpose nonmovement aiming at the moral conquest of civil society, mostly operate outside the formal structure of political parties but are nevertheless citizens and, as such, political actors. The encroachment of the arabisants in the public sphere in Mali, has the un-structured and un-planned effect of affecting the discourse and the actions of the government who react to their presence.

“The arabisants implicitly aim at moralising the State through the process of “socialization of the state” defined as a “conditioning of the state and its representative so as to make them a reflection of societal sensibilities, ideals, and expectations.” As such, it is at the nexus of religious education and citizenship participation that my interests lie with the central question being: How does Malian arabisants’ conception of their own Muslimness inform their reading of the political discourse and their choices in terms of their political activities in the public sphere as Malian citizens?”

One Response to “Researcher Profile – Emilie Roy”
  1. A workweldone. The Dr. the situation of Islam in Bamako, the research area is alike in Nigeria. It also calls for reflection

Leave A Comment

%d bloggers like this: