Certain knowledge, contestable authority: power and practice on the Islamic periphery



The relationships among texts, readers, and moral community are explored in order to understand the dissonance and interplay of personal and textual authority in local Islamic practice (Sunni, Shaf'i branch) among Malagasy-speaking villagers of Mayotte (Comoro Islands, East Africa). A political economy of knowledge approach is linked to an analysis of recitation as a ritual activity in which illocution-ary force exceeds referential meaning. The discussion has relevance for the understanding of the relationship between religious knowledge, power, and action in Islamic societies as well as of the interface between the oral and the written more generally. [Islam, religious texts and ritual utterances, knowledge, power, Malagasy, Comoros]