Blurring boundaries: aesthetics, performance, and the transformation of Islamic leadership

Kalmbach, Hilary (2015) Blurring boundaries: aesthetics, performance, and the transformation of Islamic leadership. Culture and Religion, 16 (2). pp. 160-174. ISSN 1475-5610

[img] PDF - Published Version
Restricted to SRO admin only

Download (370kB)


This article demonstrates the importance of performance – and in particular performances that blur boundaries between aesthetical styles – to the emergence and impact of ‘new religious intellectuals’, a group that radically transformed Islamic leadership in the twentieth century and were involved in setting up the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1928.This article builds on previous work on performance and the legitimation of Islamic leadership to show that aesthetics should be considered alongside education and discourse as a differentiating factor between new religious intellectuals and the ‘ulama’. Drawing on Birgit Meyer's approach to aesthetics, it argues that aesthetical styles formed a crucial part of the vocabulary of the performances through which leadership and group belonging was legitimised in interwar Egypt. This emphasises further that the legitimation of leadership is about more than demonstrating intellectual mastery of information and techniques, whether Islamic or European-influenced. Finally, the article demonstrates the importance of blurring boundaries to sociocultural change and specifically to the emergence of new religious intellectuals in interwar Egypt, because it highlights how early new religious intellectuals straddled the boundary separating the ‘ulama’ from the efendiyya to establish themselves as religious leaders for the self-consciously modern efendiyya. While early new religious intellectuals drew on hybrid educational backgrounds, their vocation and discourse were fairly closely matched to the efendiyya. Instead, it was in the area of aesthetics that the most blurring occurred, with leaders performing elements of both ‘ulama’ and efendiyya aesthetics to establish legitimacy as both social leaders and religious authorities within the efendiyya.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Egypt, performance, ‘ulama’, efendi, effendi, new religious intellectual, Muslim Brotherhood
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc > BP001 Islam
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History, 1453-
D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS041 Middle East. Southwestern Asia. Ancient Orient. Arab East. Near East
D History General and Old World > DT History of Africa > DT0043 Egypt
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs (General) > GT0500 Costume. Dress. Fashion
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa > LG511 Egypt
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Hilary Kalmbach
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2015 11:13
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 06:34

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update