Secularism versus Awkwardness in Public Spaces: An Online Ethnography with Muslims in Windsor, Ontario
Date of Award
Sociology and Anthropology
Affect theory, Awkwardness, Muslim Canadians, Non-Muslims, Political action, Secularism
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This dissertation asks how Muslims in Windsor, ON imagine and undertake political action, often formed through the lived experiences of migration, gender, and class, in the context of Canadian secularism. I argue that secularism has the neo-colonial effect of oppressing marginalized peoples by excluding them from public spaces and undermining democratic engagements. However, as my fieldwork exposed secularism’s tacit discriminatory effects, it also revealed how Muslims thrive despite restrictions on their public lives, resist oppression, and create open communities where everyone willing to learn is welcome.
Theoretical engagements with the works of Hannah Arendt and Sara Ahmed reveal that Muslim political action works by learning with and from each other about Islamic life in a western society. These learnings ground them in Islamic tenets while at the same time provide them with histories, cultures, and literary works pertaining to their own peoples which, in turn, allows them to analyze life in Canada as it pertains to their positionality. I add to theories of action by showing how BIPOC ways of being with and learning about their positionality is not only a way of preservation, but also a way of democratic engagement. Ultimately, by means of affect theory, I argue that awkwardness offers a key moment of possibility for democratic engagement between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Online ethnography was the most effective means to access the Muslim community in Windsor, Ontario because their lives, like most people’s, were online during the pandemic, a fact that merely intensified prior lived reality rather than deviated from it. Without online research especially during the pandemic, marginalized groups would be at risk of under-representation, either from the impact of Covid or from other areas of vulnerability such as Islamophobic events. The research draws on extended, unstructured interviews with 27 participants, participant-observation in online settings, and on social media as well as on current events, news, and policies as they pertain to Muslims in Canada.
Şcolnic, Galina, "Secularism versus Awkwardness in Public Spaces: An Online Ethnography with Muslims in Windsor, Ontario" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8930.