Imagining an ideal husband: Marriage as a site of aspiration among pious Somali women in London

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This article is about “marriage talk” and the forms of imagination and aspiration that it entails. It draws on discussions and debates about ideal husbands among young Somali Muslim women in Britain who, in recent years, have begun practicing Islam. Through these debates, these women draw on various different discourses, values, norms, and ideals to rethink and reimagine themselves in relation to multiple others, including kin, friends, and God. Marriage, I argue, is a site of aspiration, as it engages the ethical imagination—the means and modes by which individuals reimagine relations to self and others (Moore 2011). By reflecting on, discussing, and imagining a future spouse, these young women draw on different forms of knowledge in relation to enlarged visions of self and other. I demonstrate that analyses of the complexly constituted Muslim subject need to pay attention not only to the coexistence of multiple moral registers or rubrics, but also to how these connect to the ways in which individuals imagine new ways of being. The article brings to the fore the importance of intersubjectivity and shines light on the processes of imagining and aspiring, which are crucial for understanding the complex lives of young women who turn to practice Islam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-812
JournalAnthropological Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Islam
  • gender
  • piety
  • subjectivity
  • aspiration
  • United Kingdom
  • Somali


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