I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware. I have served as the Director of Islamic Studies (2011-2014) and was a Faculty Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences, directing the Plastino Scholars, Dean’s Scholars, and the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies programs. I am a two-time recent Fulbright Scholar to Malaysia, affiliated with the University of Malaya and the International Islamic University of Malaysia.
After nearly a decade of senior-level business experience on Wall Street, I trained as an anthropologist to study the relationship between Islam and modern capitalism in Malaysia.
I first conducted fieldwork in Malaysia in 1993-1994. My initial two-year period of research analyzed Islam and social and economic change in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Malaysia is a powerhouse among Southeast Asian nations for both the success of its capitalist development and the influence of its Islamic worldview.
When I arrived in Malaysia, no anthropologist had yet fully investigated the culture of its emergent Islamic capitalists. The centerpiece of my initial period of research is my book, Islam, Modernity and Entrepreneurship among the Malays, a detailed study of urban Malay Muslim society in the process of capitalist transformation.
In my second period of research in Malaysia, from 1996 to 1998, I focused on the professional, white-collar, urban Malay Muslim middle- and upper-middle-class that has emerged as a consequence of capitalism in Malaysia. The object of this research was to consider the ways in which Muslim people who traditionally share an egalitarian religious ethos experience the new ideas, values, experiences, desires, and subjectivities of global modernity. I have written articles on the nature of middle-class identity and the creation of class difference in urban Malaysia.
In the past few years, I have made five extended fieldwork visits to Malaysia to conduct new research for a book entitled Corporate Islam: Working in Malaysia’s Islamic Economy, which concerns the relationship between business culture and sharia (Islamic law). What particularly interests me as an anthropologist is how sharia has increasingly emerged as a novel form of corporate culture, reconfiguring workplace identities and relations in distinctly Islamic ways. To the people in the Islamic economy I have studied, sharia is not merely a guide for financial operations. It is, as Muslim jurists understand it and in the fullest meaning of the word, a “path,” a way of life (and a way of work). I am studying the use and growth of Islamic principles and precepts in the capitalist workplace, most recently focusing on Islamic philanthropy, wakf, and corporate zakat, and how Islamic ideals are used to define the nature of modern capitalist power relations and class, ethnic, and gender relations, as well as relations between individuals and institutions.
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