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Reimagining the Umma : translocal space and the changing boundaries of Muslim political community.

Mandaville, Peter G. (1998) Reimagining the Umma : translocal space and the changing boundaries of Muslim political community. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86030) (KAR id:86030)


A wide variety of 'translocal' forces - diasporic peoples, transnational social movements, global & migratory cities, post-national institutions, information technologies - are challenging the traditional state-centrism of International Relations' political imaginary. Moreover, just as people are translocal, so are their theories. This thesis analyses Islam as a form of 'travelling theory' in the context of the global transformations outlined above. It seeks to understand how globalising processes are manifested as lived experience through a discussion of debates over the meaning of Muslim identity, political community an the emergence of something like a 'critical Islam.' After a critique of state-centric thinking in International Relations, the thesis goes on to suggest that more sophisticated treatments of translocal politics can be found in the literatures of anthropology, postcolonial and cultural studies. A non-essentialist conception of Islam is introduced, followed by a discussion of the conditions under which Muslim discourses on the umma (the world community of believers) have historically been produced. Three key theoretical tropes - travelling theory, hybridity and diaspora - are then discussed as framing devices for understanding translocal politics. Two case study chapters, one on the politics of Muslim diaspora communities and the other on Muslim uses of communications and information technologies, are presented. The first focuses on debates with Muslim communities as to the nature and meaning of modern Islam, the reformulation of Muslim thought on politics, community and gender and the implications of travelling Islam's return journey to its various original settings. The second case study highlights the changing boundaries of religious knowledge by demonstrating how information technologies have been deployed as a mean by which to contest traditional sources of Islamic authority. In the concluding chapter it is argued that translocal forces are leading to the emergence of a wider Muslim public sphere. Futhermore, the critical discourses enabled by this translocal space amount to a reconceptualisation and reimagining of the umma.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86030
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Islam; International relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:25 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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