Welcome to our co-authored blog column, Pray, Pay, and Obey, in which we will address issues and research related to the intersection of faith, power and wealth in Central Asia. Our entries will cover topics ranging from the contested place of religion in national “identity” to the growing ethic of materialism among the region’s affluent classes, and ways that enthusiasts of Sharia-compliant entrepreneurship navigate competing interpretations of pious business practices. The common thread running through our posts will be to highlight the ways in which social actors occupy the religious, economic, and political fields simultaneously, and bridge the logics of these fields in their actions.
We feel that a blog column is a proper forum for discussing these issues along lines other than causal arguments that are standard within the social sciences. While students of Sociology ourselves, we find that the demands for rigorous argumentation and substantiation inherent to scholarship tend to produce parsimonious formulations in which religion, politics, and economics are presented as discrete spheres that stand apart from and act upon each other. Our entries will emphasize the mutually-constitutive nature of these fields through brief expositions of scholarship and personal reflection. We are each pursuing similar themes through our dissertation research currently, and hope this column will also serve as an informal venue for sharing thoughts and receiving feedback from the readers.
Although a native of Kyrgyzstan currently conducting research in her home country, Aisalkyn’s dissertation project on Islamic finance has opened new social spaces that she had not closely known previously – mosques, davaatchi, financiers, and enthusiasts of Shariah-compliant business. David is conducting research on state regulation of “non-traditional” religious groups in Central Asia, and gaining insights from informants who themselves vividly display the intersectionality of politics and religion – producing and analyzing religious policy while also practicing local traditions. Both of us look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions, especially in relation to literature and events that touch on our posts!