This in-depth ethnography looks at the everyday lives of Muslim students in a girls’ madrasa in India. Highlighting the ambiguities between the students’ espousal of madrasa norms and everyday practice, Borker illustrates how young Muslim girls tactically invoke the virtues of safety, modesty, and piety learnt in the madrasa to reconfigure normative social expectations around marriage, education, and employment.
Amongst the few ethnographies on girls’ madrasas in India, this volume focuses on unfolding of young women’s lives as they journey from their home to madrasa and beyond, and thereby problematizes the idealized and coherent notions of piety presented by anthropological literature on female participation in Islamic piety projects. The author uses ethnographic portraits to introduce us to an array of students, many of whom find their aspirational horizon expanded as a result of the madrasa experience. Such stories challenge the dominant media’s representations of madrasas as outmoded religious institutions. Further, the author illustrates how the processes of learning–unlearning and alternate visions of the future emerge as an unanticipated consequence of young women’s engagement with madrasa education.