Immanent Critique and Islam: Anthropological Reflections

Ahmad, Irfan. 2011.“Immanent Critique and Islam: Anthropological Reflections.”Anthropological Theory.11(1): 107– 132.

Abstract: This article offers an anthropological outline of immanent critique in Islamic traditions. In addressing the question — what is immanent critique? — it dwells on the interrelationships amongst the Enlightenment’s notion of reason, critique, and Islam. My main contention is that to construe the Western notion of critique derived from Enlightenment’s specific conceptualization of reason as critique per se is misleading for there are non-Enlightenment modes of critique such as the Islamic one this article proposes for further discussion. I also discuss the objectification of culture, social distance and a new sense of temporality as significant factors facilitating the condition for critique to become particularly salient under modernity. Based largely on ethnographic-historical materials from South Asia, I argue why immanent critique is a useful analytical tool to understand the dynamics of Muslim cultures and societies in their diverse milieus.