Islam Obscured analyzes four seminal anthropology texts on Muslims that have been read widely outside the discipline. Two are by distinguished anthropologists: Islam Observed (Clifford Geertz, 1968) and Muslim Society (Ernest Gellner, 1981). Two other texts are by Muslim scholars: Beyond the Veil (Fatima Mernissi, 1975) and Discovering Islam (Akbar Ahmed, 1988). Varisco argues that each of these approaches Islam as an essentialized organic unity rather than letting "islams" found in the field speak to the diversity of practice. He sheds light on Islam as a cultural phenomenon, representation of the other, Muslim gender roles, politics of ethnographic authority, and Orientalist discourse. Varisco's analysis goes beyond the rhetoric over what Islam is, focusing instead on ethnographic research about what Muslims say they do and actually are observed doing.

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