Author Biography

Jacqueline H. Fewkes is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honor College of Florida Atlantic University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Dr. Fewkes has conducted research in many parts of the world, including India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. She writes on diverse topics including visual ethnography, leadership, transnational economic histories, development, and Islam.


This article is based on a series of interviews with a group of female Islamic scholars—alima—in Leh, Ladakh, who were the first four women from the region to receive a religious education in a formal madrassa (religious school). The women interviewed attended Jamiatus Salehat, a Deobandi religious boarding school located in Malageon Maharashtra (India), in the late 1980s. They graduated in 1991, returning to Ladakh to teach religion in the area. Today, these four women conduct public religious teachings for women in both Leh and Nubra valleys, and educate their family members about Islam as well. Segments of interviews conducted in 2012 with three of these alima of Ladakh are provided here to create portraits of the women that reflect their thoughts and experiences in their own voices. While these interviews illustrate the ways that local and global practices of 'being Muslim' are mutually constitutive, they suggest many other narratives as well. Unedited interview transcripts are therefore the focal point of this perspective piece to provide readers with a sense of other possibilities of interpretation and resist the formation of a dominating unified narrative.


A debt of gratitude is owed to Alima Bilquis, Alima Parveen, Alima Shakeela, and Alima Shaheeda for agreeing to talk about their education and work, as well as sharing their expertise on a variety of subjects. The completion of this study would not have been possible without the generous support of Attiya Kousar and Rubina Kousar. I would also like to thank Abdul Nasir Khan for conducting these interviews with me, and assisting me at all stages of the work.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.