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Attiya Ahmad Faculty Member

The pandemic continues to adversely impact my scholarship, but given its stretched out and indeterminate (and seemingly never-ending) nature, I have been trying to adapt my scholarship such that I can develop a research and publishing plan that is overwhelmingly tethered to in-person ethnographic research. I have started to shift some of my writing towards more conceptually oriented questions (that I frame in terms of 'relational Islam') and am still trying to figure out--in collaboration with my interlocutors--what my ongoing research on halal tourism will look like in the wake of the pandemic (by this I mean what materials I will publish). It is hard to overstate how adverse the effects of the pandemic have been to my scholarship. For the 3 academic years prior to the pandemic, I had focused most of my time and energy on developing and executing fieldwork on global halal tourism networks. This research has not only necessitated my engagement with a range of new scholarly fields (late middle age and early modern Mediterranean history; art history; heritage/tourism studies; religious economies; traditions of Islamic cartographies and travel writings; work on decolonialism and the relational), but also extensive logistical planning and execution as I conducted overseas fieldwork in a myriad of sites (e.g. Spain, Turkey, UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Caucasus, Central Asia, circum-Med region). My interlocutors are busy, globally dispersed and very proprietary about their knowledge and time. I had worked hard to develop trusting and collaborative research relationships with my interlocutors. During the 2019-2020 academic year, I felt as though I had a sense of the broad contours and major themes related to my fieldwork. I was anticipating/readying the completion of my fieldwork, and had begun substantive work on a book manuscript on this topic. The status of all that work came into question as the pandemic unfolded--global tourism collapsed and attendant to this, so did the halal tourism activities of my interlocutors. All my previous fieldwork and writings now have to be periodized as pre-pandemic. Over the past year, I had to think hard about whether to conclude my research and keep it periodized as pre-pandemic; or to continue with my research into what still feels like an uncertain and precarious future. I have decided to continue my research as my interlocutors rebuild their activities. In doing so, I am fortunate to not only have continuing support from the NSF, but deepened support from my research interlocutors. Over the course of the pandemic, my relationships/connections/profile with my interlocutors has grown, making me well poised to resume and, when conditions permit, to successfully conclude my fieldwork. My research and writing on felt (as site/means of past and present forms of 'Silk Road' connections) and silk (as site/means of tracing religious minorities and diasporic groups in the Mediterranean region) has also been adversely affected. This past year I was able to conduct fieldwork in the summer and spring: I followed up with interlocutors and sites of my research to document first hand the impacts of the pandemic on their work, and I also conducted interviews and collected research materials.

Research Areas

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