Religion and Culture Web Forum

"Learning to Be Muslim--Transnationally" discusses the religious upbringing experiences and reflections upon them articulated by fifty-three Muslim American youth who were interviewed as part of a larger sociological study of Arab American teenagers living transnationally. On extended sojourns in their parents’ homelands, these youth--most born in the US although some migrated to the US at a young age--were taken “back home” to Palestine and Jordan by their parents so they could learn “their language, culture, and religion.” They were asked about learning to be Muslim in the US and overseas in the context of a much larger set of questions about their transnational life experiences. The data provide insights into the various types of early religious learning experiences Muslims have access to in a US Christian-majority context. The essay then examines how these youth later experienced and interpreted being Muslim in a place where Muslims are a majority. 

Louise Cainkar is a sociologist in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University, teaching courses in the social welfare and justice, sociology and anthropology majors.  Her areas of expertise include Arab American studies; Muslims in the United States, and Migration and Immigrant Integration.  She has published extensively on Arab American demographics and on their experiences as they intersect with notions of race, the US Census, US foreign policies, and immigrant economic niches.  Her recent award-winning book, Homeland Insecurity:  The Arab American and Muslim American Experience after 9/11 (2009, Russell Sage Foundation) draws upon extensive field work and ethnographic interviews while engaging a range of sociological theories and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

Please note that essays and responses are available as pdfs only (requires the free Adobe Acrobat reader).


About the Web Forum

The Martin Marty Center's Religion and Culture Web Forum is an online forum for thought-provoking discussion on the relationship of scholarship in religion to culture and public life. Each month the Marty Center, the research arm of the University of Chicago Divinity School, invites a scholar of religion to comment on his or her own research in a way that "opens out" to themes, problems, and events in world cultures and contemporary life. Scholars from diverse fields of study are invited to offer responses to these commentaries.

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The Religion and Culture Web Forum is edited by Emily D. Crews, Divinity School PhD student in the History of Religions.