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Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe:
Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria
Kristen Ghodsee

Winner of the 2011 William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Europe/American Anthropological Association
Winner of the 2011 Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Winner of the 2011 John D. Bell Memorial Book Prize, Bulgarian Studies Association
Winner of the 2010 Heldt Prize for Best Book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's studies, Association for Women in Slavic Studies

Paperback | 2009 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691139555
280 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 25 halftones. 2 tables.
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Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe examines how gender identities were reconfigured in a Bulgarian Muslim community following the demise of Communism and an influx of international aid from the Islamic world. Kristen Ghodsee conducted extensive ethnographic research among a small population of Pomaks, Slavic Muslims living in the remote mountains of southern Bulgaria. After Communism fell in 1989, Muslim minorities in Bulgaria sought to rediscover their faith after decades of state-imposed atheism. But instead of returning to their traditionally heterodox roots, isolated groups of Pomaks embraced a distinctly foreign type of Islam, which swept into their communities on the back of Saudi-financed international aid to Balkan Muslims, and which these Pomaks believe to be a more correct interpretation of their religion.

Ghodsee explores how gender relations among the Pomaks had to be renegotiated after the collapse of both Communism and the region's state-subsidized lead and zinc mines. She shows how mosques have replaced the mines as the primary site for jobless and underemployed men to express their masculinity, and how Muslim women have encouraged this as a way to combat alcoholism and domestic violence. Ghodsee demonstrates how women's embrace of this new form of Islam has led them to adopt more conservative family roles, and how the Pomaks' new religion remains deeply influenced by Bulgaria's Marxist-Leninist legacy, with its calls for morality, social justice, and human solidarity.


"Islamic studies scholars who increasingly focus on a wide range of Muslim societies in both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries will find this volume informative. The author presents her work in an accessible fashion, and the volume will appeal to people with diverse interests."--Choice

"Ghodsee accomplishes a great deal with Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe. . . . [T]his work may be a useful teaching tool for classes focusing on political transitions and may help steer young students and international bureaucrats away from crude stereotypes about Muslims in the Balkans."--Isa Blumi, H-Net Reviews

"Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe offers an insightful analysis of the social and economic factors that propelled the spread of new forms of religious allegiances and gender roles among Pomaks in Bulgaria. It is an excellent contribution to the study of Islam in postcommunist society."--Ina Merdjanova, Religion, State & Society

"Ghodsee does an excellent job at unpacking the complexities of Muslim life in Madan and beyond. Her thought-provoking book gives life to a world in which the dust of the past is still settling on the complex world of post-1989."--Mary Neuburger, Slavic Review


"Finally, a thoughtful case study of the influence of Islamic aid organizations among the Muslim minority populations in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Kristen Ghodsee describes the changes that have taken place in the practice of Islam among the Pomaks, the indigenous Slav Muslims of Bulgaria. Her book reads like a detective story of why the Muslims of one particular town turned toward the new orthodox and 'foreign' Islam of mainly Saudi-inspired imams and proselytizing aid workers. A much-needed contribution."--Tone Bringa, author of Being Muslim the Bosnian Way

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Table of Contents:

Illustrations ix
A Note on Transliteration xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction: The Changing Face of Islam in Bulgaria 1
Chapter One: Names to Be Buried With 34
Chapter Two: Men and Mines 56
Chapter Three: The Have-nots and the Have-nots 86
Chapter Four: Divide and Be Conquered 109
Chapter Five: Islamic Aid 130
Chapter Six: The Miniskirt and the Veil 159
Conclusion: Minarets after Marx 184
Appendix 205
Notes 207
Selected Bibliography 235
Index 243


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