Project

Worldviews: An Anthropological Perspective

Goal: What distinguishes this project from contemporary project/ books on worldviews is its concern with the ethnography of the worldviews of different societies. Worldview is based on assumptions concerning the structure of the universe. It includes the society as well as the human and nonhuman beings and forces, both perceptible and imperceptible, that constitute the integrated parts of the universe or cosmos (el-Aswad 2002, 2). Worldview is comparable to “Weltanschauung,” “meaning system,” “patterns of thought,” “perceptual framework,” “cognitive orientation,” (el-Aswad 2012) or what Charles Taylor (2004, 249) calls “social imaginary,” where the focus is on the way ordinary people imagine their social world. People’s worldviews are treated not as an ideological system but as a system of meanings generated and enacted in different courses of public and private scenarios dealing with seen and unseen domains of local communities. Worldview is concerned with people’s place in the universe, setting boundaries between nature and culture on the one hand and the local and global on the other. Worldview, embodied in the practices and discourses of large groups of ordinary people, reveals inner meaning systems made of assumptions and images in accordance with which the universe, including the society and person, is constructed. The project critiques literature that imposes Western worldviews or ideologies on other societies’ worldviews. The project proposes that the use of the term “worldview” rather than exclusively “religion,” may augment dialogue and enlarge the circles of perspectives that complement, contrast, or go beyond religious beliefs per se.

El-Aswad, el- (1990). The Concept of 'World View' in Anthropological Writings (with English abstract) The National Review of Social Sciences, Cairo, 27 (1): 9-54.
______, (1993). Socialization and the Construction of World Views of the Child: Comparative Study Between a Gulf Society and a Rural Egyptian Society, Dirasat (Studies). Sharjah, U.A.E.: Emirates Writers and Literates Union. vol. 6: 7-30.
______, (1996). World Views in the Folk Literature of the Emirates Society (with English abstract), al Ma’thurat al Sha‘biyyah (Folklore), Qatar, October 11 (41): 77-96.
______, (2002). Religion and Folk Cosmology: Scenarios of the Visible and Invisible in Rural Egypt. Westport, CT: Praeger Press.
______, (2012). Muslim Worldviews and Everyday Lives. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher.
______, (2014). Patience in Sunni Muslim Worldviews.” Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, Vol 1: 1318-1321. Springer
______, (2015). “Islamic Worldview and Islamist Ideology: The Predicament of Sanctity and Power”. 114th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting: Nov. 18-22. Denver, CO, USA.
______, (2017). Empathy and Emerging Worldviews. In Encyclopaedia of Psychology and Religion, David A. Leeming (ed.). Springer Verlag GmbH Germany.
Taylor, Charles. (2004). Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Project log

El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
This article does not claim that all Egyptian children view the world identically, but rather confirms certain significant underlying principles upon which their worldviews are constructed. The polarities of local-Global North and South are reconstituted through children’s narratives into flexible and positive attitudes implicit in their activities/worldviews.
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
This is review of Religion and Folk Cosmology (in Arabic)
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added 2 research items
This book introduces the concepts of worldviews/cosmologies of Muslims, explaining that the different types of worldviews are not constructed solely by religious scholars or intellectual elite, but are latent in Islamic tradition, embedded in popular imagination, and triggered through people's everyday interaction in various countries and communities. He draws from a number of sources including in-depth interviews and participant observation as well as government documents and oral history. Through the perspectives of ethno-cosmology, emic interpretation of sacred tradition, modernity, folklore, geography, dream, imagination, hybridity, and identity transformation, he examines how culturally and religiously constructed images of the world influence the daily actions of people in various Muslim communities. The worldviews of Sunnis, Shi'as, and Sufis are covered in turn, and Muslims in the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and suburban Detroit are the focus. el-Aswad also discusses the effects of Western attempts at imposing its essentially secular worldview through the process of globalization and how cyberspace has promoted connectivity among Muslim communities and, especially in the United States, opened up unlimited options and new possibilities. The book explores the dynamic relationships between Muslim worldviews and sociocultural practices of Muslim communities in various geographic locations. The significance of religion in a materialistically oriented and globally dominant and changing world has been a nexus of current debates in anthropological and sociological circles. It is also apparent that there is an imperative motivation for why Islamic discourses gradually dominate contemporary global and local events. At the same time, one of the most important aspects of globalization4 has been the spread of religious networks, virtual and real, that perpetuate the connectivity of religious and cosmological beliefs. By providing a wealth of historical, geographic, and spatial accounts of Muslim worldviews, this book seeks to contribute significant insights to the scholarship of Islam and Muslim societies as well as to question derogatory misconceptions of non-Muslim societies toward Muslims and vice versa.
The rapid acquisition of oil wealth has made the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates established in 1971, the fastest growing Arab Gulf state in terms of economic transformation and communication technology. The seven emirates (ruled by emirs) are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Although the economic transformation of Emirati society has been investigated, the impact of communication technology on social networking among Emirati people is scant. Networking in terms of electronic communications, transnational travel, and institutional affiliations and ideas has had a major impact on the evolution of the infrastructure of the Emirates since the 1970s. Social networking Websites, which have more than 1.7 million members within the Emirates, is becoming popular. According to a World Economic Forum report, the Emir-ates leads the Arab world in the adoption of information and communication technology, and expenditures on information technology and communications hardware for schools, hospitals, and other civil projects was expected to total about $3.3 billion between 2008 and 2011. A large majority of Emirati customers are actively seeking and searching product information online and through social media platforms. They strive to keep abreast of rapid changes in technological advances, especially with regard to the use of the Internet, as an effective means of learning and communication. Embracing New Forms of Networking Social networks encompass social relationships such as connections between friends and discussion forums. The expansion of electronic technology has caused a growth of interpersonal contacts among Emirati nationals due to the low cost and pervasive availability of e-mailing, online chatting, mobile phoning, short message services (SMS) as well as other means of electronic social networking. Social networking Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube are frequently used by Emirati people. Both men and women in the Emir-ates have positive perceptions toward the Internet, but men tend to have more constructive perceptions than women, especially in the domains of economic or scientific information and social connections with relatives and friends. Also, men spend more time than women in using these social networks. For instance, Emirati women, both married and unmarried, refrained from using the Internet and mobile phones in the 1990s for fear of being accused of misconduct. However, since the early 2000s, they have gradually started to use the Internet and mobile phones with such frequency that now many Emirati women enjoy owning more than one computer or cell phone. In the Emirates there is an acute juxtaposition of the local and global, indigenous and imported, traditional and modern, and idealistic and pragmatic. New technologies are changing the nature of communication and creating unprecedented forms of virtual realities. Since certain parts of electronic messages are closely related to certain kinds of traditional communication, they can be viewed as a new medium of vernacular culture. Electronic communication does not eliminate, but rather provides alternatives to, traditional means of communication. Cybercirculation, e-communication, and digital visual language can thus be used to expand traditional verbal and written communication. Mobile phones and the Internet are used not only for information purposes, but also for entertainment and online contacts as well as exchanges of personal and social views. This type of immediate social reaction to new phenomena has created a special pattern of written visual contacts, global in form and local in content, within which both English and Arabic languages (with various colloquial dialects) are used in e-communications, displaying economic, cultural and gender differences. Due to the government policy surrounding Bedouin settlements, as well as the impact of globalization, traditional patterns of neighborhoods are changing. Modern buildings and spectacular villas exist side by side with traditional local houses, creating vivid displays of cultural and ethnic diversity. The new phenomenon of commuting between places of residence to places (and other cities) of work has also
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
This is an interview conducted by alayam news where scholars el-Sayed el-Aswad, Sawsan Karimi and Nader Kazim discuss the impact of place/space on the formation of cultural identity.
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
This is an Arabic book review of Religion and Folk Cosmology, translated by the author (el-Sayed el-Aswad) التصور الشعبي للكون: سناريو الظاهر والباطن في المجتمع القروي المصري
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
The significance of religion and concepts of al‐ghaib (the invisible and unknowable) and sanctity in a materialistically oriented and globally dominant and changing world has been a nexus of current debates in Orthodox Islam. The concept of al‐ghaib is a fundamental principle in Islamic theology; however, it has a profound impact on Muslim’s daily lives. Thenceforth, this study focuses on the concepts of al‐ghaib, or invisibility, sanctity, and imagination, as reflected in ordinary Muslims’ views and key practices aimed at disclosing the unknown and unseen. This article presents an anthropological holistic insight incorporating objective description and subjective interpretation and as such comprises a phenomenological hermeneutic inquiry. Drawing on ethnographic studies conducted in communities belonging to Bahrain (predominantly Shi‘a) and Egypt (predominantly Sunni), this inquiry aims at exploring the relationships between the Islamic sacred conviction of al‐ghaib and everyday practices of Muslim communities. These ethnographic accounts are examined and compared with scholarly literature and cross‐cultural materials.
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
The Arabic word, al-ghaib, indicating what is simultaneously absent, unknowable, and invisible, is one of the core concepts in Muslim worldviews. There are extensive orthodox exegeses of al-ghaib made by the "ulama or religious scholars that go beyond the scope of this study which focuses on ordinary Muslims" views and daily lives. This paper asserts that the theme of al-ghaib rises above any specific Muslim sect and is associated with overarching Muslim worldviews.
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a research item
Throughout the ages, human bodily members, particularly Magic Bodily Members: Human Eye and Hand, have played a significant part in people’s cosmological and magical belief systems and daily lives. The article seeks to show the cosmic, magical and psychic forces of eye and hand that can be transmitted to human beings and other entities.
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added an update
Patience (ṣabr) in Sunni-Muslim Worldviews
The Arabic word ṣabr (patience) in Muslim worldviews embraces twofold dimensions, one is inactive or negative (associated with bitter or unpleasant experiences) and the other is active or positive (associated with sweet or fruitful outcomes).
Passive or inactive patience refers to the ability to willingly refrain from or forgo specific actions in response to both uncontrolled and controlled conditions. Restraint or tolerance in the face of provocation is a good example (el-Awad 2014). To be patient is to abstain from saying or doing something (usually forbidden).
Patience or self-control is required to resist temptation and avoid committing taboos or prohibited behavior (ḥarām). Also, in the case of sickness, the sick person is expected to show patience by waiting calmly (without complaining) until he/she recovers. Observing or maintaining modesty and chastity requires patience for not doing what is considered to be shameful or prohibited. During difficult and stressful times, Muslims are reminded to be patient and hopeful. Patience is frequently equated with silence (ṣamṭ), the ability to keep silent (kitmān or katūm),and managing one’s anger or rage (katm al-ghayẓ). In many social contexts, Muslims view silence as a sign of contentment and acceptance.
References
el-Aswad, el-Sayed (2014). Patience in Sunni Muslim Worldviews.
Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer Doi10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_9317.
 
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added an update
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added an update
Worldview, embodied in the practices and discourses of large groups of ordinary
people, reveals inner meaning systems made of assumptions and images in accordance
with which the universe, including the society and person, is constructed.
Worldview deals with such issues as the creation of the world, the place of humans
in that world, potential means for improving social conditions, fate, death, resurrection,
the afterlife, magic, envy, blessing, invisible beings (souls, spirits, angels,
jinn), and unseen forces without and within humankind.
Western worldviews have experienced a kind of transformation defined in terms of detachment and disenchantment with religion, the sacred, and the world of spirits. For Muslims, however, the existence of God, an ultimate sacred postulate, and the prevalence of Islamic law (shari‘a) are inseparable from their worldviews and everyday lives. But, certain Western scholars express their concern toward the unresolved paradox that religion, for some Americans, occupies an important place in a nation founded on the separation of church and state (Jacoby 2004).
Jacoby, Susan. (2004). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Metropolitan Books.
 
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added an update
This is to create a dialogue concerning the importance of the concept of "worldview" in understanding different cultures, practices and styles of life of different societies.
 
El-Sayed El-Aswad
added a project goal
What distinguishes this project from contemporary project/ books on worldviews is its concern with the ethnography of the worldviews of different societies. Worldview is based on assumptions concerning the structure of the universe. It includes the society as well as the human and nonhuman beings and forces, both perceptible and imperceptible, that constitute the integrated parts of the universe or cosmos (el-Aswad 2002, 2). Worldview is comparable to “Weltanschauung,” “meaning system,” “patterns of thought,” “perceptual framework,” “cognitive orientation,” (el-Aswad 2012) or what Charles Taylor (2004, 249) calls “social imaginary,” where the focus is on the way ordinary people imagine their social world. People’s worldviews are treated not as an ideological system but as a system of meanings generated and enacted in different courses of public and private scenarios dealing with seen and unseen domains of local communities. Worldview is concerned with people’s place in the universe, setting boundaries between nature and culture on the one hand and the local and global on the other. Worldview, embodied in the practices and discourses of large groups of ordinary people, reveals inner meaning systems made of assumptions and images in accordance with which the universe, including the society and person, is constructed. The project critiques literature that imposes Western worldviews or ideologies on other societies’ worldviews. The project proposes that the use of the term “worldview” rather than exclusively “religion,” may augment dialogue and enlarge the circles of perspectives that complement, contrast, or go beyond religious beliefs per se.
El-Aswad, el- (1990). The Concept of 'World View' in Anthropological Writings (with English abstract) The National Review of Social Sciences, Cairo, 27 (1): 9-54.
______, (1993). Socialization and the Construction of World Views of the Child: Comparative Study Between a Gulf Society and a Rural Egyptian Society, Dirasat (Studies). Sharjah, U.A.E.: Emirates Writers and Literates Union. vol. 6: 7-30.
______, (1996). World Views in the Folk Literature of the Emirates Society (with English abstract), al Ma’thurat al Sha‘biyyah (Folklore), Qatar, October 11 (41): 77-96.
______, (2002). Religion and Folk Cosmology: Scenarios of the Visible and Invisible in Rural Egypt. Westport, CT: Praeger Press.
______, (2012). Muslim Worldviews and Everyday Lives. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher.
______, (2014). Patience in Sunni Muslim Worldviews.” Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, Vol 1: 1318-1321. Springer
______, (2015). “Islamic Worldview and Islamist Ideology: The Predicament of Sanctity and Power”. 114th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting: Nov. 18-22. Denver, CO, USA.
______, (2017). Empathy and Emerging Worldviews. In Encyclopaedia of Psychology and Religion, David A. Leeming (ed.). Springer Verlag GmbH Germany.
Taylor, Charles. (2004). Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.