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Promises of (im)mediate salvation: Islam, broadcast media, and the remaking of religious experience in Mali

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Abstract

In this article, I take the highly successful Muslim preacher Cherif Haidara in Mali as a starting point to explore the conditions that, throughout the contemporary Muslim world, facilitate the rise to prominence of new types of religious leaders, who, by virtue of their media performances and in their roles as preachers, personal counselors, or legal advisers, attract broad constituencies of believers. I assess recent shifts in the normative, institutional, and economic conditions of religious debate in urban Mali that have changed the parameters of common understandings of the relevance of religion to daily life and politics. I examine how the adoption of new media technologies affects the contents and forms of religious reasoning, the subjective understandings and articulations of Islamic normativity, and thereby contributes to changes in the sources and forms of leadership. Finally, I investigate in what ways processes of commodification and commercialization are conducive to these changes in religious experience, community, and authority.

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