A Minority Within a Minority: Indigenous Muslims and the Search for Identity

When Indigenous Australians embrace Islam they might appear to be doubling their social disadvantage. Certainly they would appear to make the road to social and political empowerment more difficult. In reality, the research that Dr Stephenson has recently completed as part of a three-year ARC postdoctoral fellowship suggests otherwise.

Empowerment, for the majority of interviewees, is associated with an enhanced capacity to take agency over one’s identity. This may have a political inflection, particularly when the conversion model is Malcolm X, but it might equally be an expression of familial piety. Empowerment is always contextual, and in this presentation Dr Stephenson will touch on some of the shaping historical and contemporary factors that impact on Indigenous Muslims’ definitions of Islam and their place in it.

Dr Peta Stephenson recently completed an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, where she is currently an honorary fellow. Her forthcoming book Islam Dreaming retraces the long history of Islam in Indigenous Australia in its examination of the growing popularity of Islam among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians today. She is also the author of The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story (UNSW Press: 2007).

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