Arthur Shiwa Zárate shares insights into the journey that led to the research he conducted for his CSSH essay, “The American Sufis: Self-Help, Sufism, and Metaphysical Religion in Postcolonial Egypt.”
In this issue authors address the question of how putatively universal rules—imperial dictates, state laws, economic regimes, and consequential categories of social life like “religion,” “the market” and “indigeneity”—are translated into local vernaculars and adapted to local sites and singular needs. The process is rarely without friction, resistance, cost, or contest. To take a hydraulic metaphor, the essays offer a comparative viscosity of the force and limits of
flow. When standardizing classifications infill regional uses and users, what sorts of detours, dams, floods, and muddied waters follow? What new springs irrupt?