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Keywords:

  • African diaspora;
  • Islam;
  • gender;
  • race;
  • medicine

“Pious Muslim Bodies and Alternative Medicine” explores the emergence of what might be conceptualized as a Muslim gendered diaspora and how it intersects with the African diaspora. Literature on the development of a Muslim public sphere tends to focus on written texts and how those texts are interpreted by Muslim groups within the ummah, or world community. This article explores not only the exegetical borrowings but also the continuities and discontinuities between these two diasporas as articulated in the bodily practices of African American Muslim women. Examining discourses about the body, this article locates different diasporic linkages in consumption and health practices. Of theoretical interest is whether these bodily practices and alternative health care discourses are tied to African American social history (race), conversion (change in dispositions), Islam (exegesis), or the American cultural ethic of individualism. With dramatic increases in women's literacy and media access within the Muslim ummah, Muslim women are beginning to participate in an international dialogue about ethical conduct. Although the religious discourses are often mimetic, the regional inflections of religious practices are often the product of other genealogies. The continuities and discontinuities represented in the health practices of African American Muslim women demonstrate that although diaspora is not tied to any place or essential religious authority, it is materially locatable in modes of practice and relations of power.