Rehearsed Spontaneity and the Conventionality of Ritual: Disciplines of Şalat



In the anthropology of ritual, one productive area of debate has focused on how the formal and conventional character of ritualized behavior is linked to, or distinct from, informal, routine, and pragmatic activity. In this article, I engage and extend this debate by analyzing various understandings of the Muslim act of prayer (şalat) among a women's piety movement in contemporary Cairo, Egypt. Rather than assume a priori that conventional gestures and behaviors necessarily accomplish the same goals, I inquire into the variable relationships assigned to rule-governed behavior within different conceptions of the self under particular regimes of truth, power, and authority. In the second half of the article, I link my analysis of ritual to issues of embodiment, emotions, and individual autonomy, examining parallel conceptions of salat that coexist in some tension in contemporary Egypt, [ritual, embodiment, emotions, discipline, subject formation, Islam]