The “moral background” of work in Central Asia

The sacred in the mundane

Authored by: Jeanine Dağyeli

Routledge Handbook on Islam in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367225285
eBook ISBN: 9780429275364
Adobe ISBN:


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Work and religion are often viewed as distinct worlds whose intermingling is either a relict of premodern economies or of backwardness. Yet, religious values and dogmas often invisibly guide labor ethics and practices. With Abend’s (2014) notion of the “moral background,” this chapter examines the underlying, sometimes unconscious values that govern work in Muslim Central Asia, and analyses their historical roots through written codices of conduct from the crafts’ milieu. These texts that are deeply influenced by Sufi conceptualizations link work to the sacred, and maintain a translocal network of spiritual reference with the wider Muslim world. Even though the codices of conduct are today largely forgotten, their basic teachings are still salient among contemporary craftspeople in Central Asia.

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