Introduction: Normative orders and the remaking of Muslim spaces and selves in contemporary Russia
The aim of this special issue is to explore, from the perspective of various notions of space, the manifold ways in which Muslims in Russia live and practice their religion. We aim to analyse how Muslims in Russia are confronted in the practice of their religion with various conceptual and experiential realms. These realms correspond to certain divisions that they must negotiate and navigate. Examples of these include the boundaries between the secular and the religious; the public and the private; the official and the informal or unofficial; the local and the translocal/transregional/transnational; halal and haram, etc. Looking at Islam through the lens of space allows us to explore the dynamic ways in which Muslims in Russia have continued to creatively redefine, negotiate, reinforce, alter and dissolve these boundaries and divides since the fall of the Soviet Union. Diverse experiences and perceptions of Muslim spaces further help us to relate the question of the (re)appearance of these Muslim spaces to the process of de-secularisation that is currently taking place in post-Soviet Russia. In particular, we aim to clarify how the relationship between the secular realm and the Islamic religion is being reconfigured by examining how Muslim lives integrate, transcend and alter the normative dichotomies that are present in official discourses on Islam. We thus want to look ethnographically at the relationship between the ways in which normative categories define and delimit certain realms and the ways in which Muslims live their religion by creatively shaping and experiencing spaces that go beyond these normative divisions. In addition, this special issue explores the question of how the (re)creation of Muslim spaces is linked to processes of becoming Muslim, of cultivating a Muslim self and of experiencing different (but often simultaneous) identities and forms of personhood.