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Negotiating meaning through costume and social media in Bulgarian Muslims’ communities of practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Laura J. Olson*
Department of Germanic and Russian Languages, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA


This paper shows how contemporary believers are negotiating a new identity of Islamic piety in Bulgarian Muslim communities. Driven by communal memory of repression and contemporary Islamophobia, Bulgarian Muslims have created communities of practice (Wenger 1998), participatory groups that share a common interest in learning more about their faith. Communities function on multiple levels: there are small pockets of Islamic activity at the local level, and at a broader level, an imagined community of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims connected to an imagined global Islamic community, the ummah. The practices examined here include face-to-face activities, such as learning to read the Qur'an and prayers in Arabic, learning Islamic principles and practice, and talking about faith in mosques and homes in Bulgaria. This paper also examines virtual practices, such as discussing faith on social media. The article focuses on women's and girls’ Qur'an reading groups and discussions about wearing hijab, and it examines an online mixed-gender discussion of daily prayers. Such grassroots practice of Islam fosters a newly articulate and participatory version of religion, embracing and encouraging believers’ literacy and knowledge, activism, and agency. The mutual goals, repertoires, and activities of this community of practice create a sense of commonality and cohesiveness, while leaving room for some diversity of focus.

Special Section: Localizing Islam: National paradigms, new actors, and contingent choices
Copyright © 2017 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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