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Rosemary Pennington “Weaving Together A Socially Mediated Muslim Self”

On March 27th, 2015, the Islamic Studies program hosted a talk by IU graduate student Rosemary Pennington entitled “Weaving Together A Socially Mediated Muslim Self.” The subject of the talk was the dynamic process of identity formation among Muslims on the social media site Tumblr. Because of the particularities of Tumblr’s infrastructure, it allows users to create a dialogue about what it means to be a Muslim in the form of reblogs, tags, and likes. Discussion of Islam between Muslim bloggers took a variety of forms, including talks about fashion, orthopraxis and orthodoxy, as well as issues of social justice. Ms. Pennington’s research took the form of interviews with various Muslim bloggers on Tumblr as well as a textual analysis of nearly two hundred blogs. Her research showed that the vast majority of those willing to be interviewed were female and lived in non-Muslim majority countries.

Some bloggers chose to mark their blogs as Muslim, whether through the use of images, audio, or text. Others chose to avoid explicitly declaring their faith. Beyond discussions of issues of faith and the exclusion that many of them deal with on a daily basis, many bloggers discussed other topics of interest to them, such as general fashion, popular music, or sports, showing that “Muslim” was not the sole dimension to their identity.