Working papers

“Beards, Barbers, and Barracks: Contemporary Negotiations of Salafi Masculinity”

Salafism is a global religious movement and its male participants, whether Quietist (Madkhalī), Islamist (Ḥarakī), or Jihadist (Jihādī), are often distinguished from their non-Salafi co-religionists by their full beards. While previous studies of Salafism have addressed masculinity as represented in calls for gender segregation, the practical outgrowth of successful gender segregation –whether enforced by state institutions or by sub-state communities –is that Salafi masculinity is necessarily formed primarily among other men. Accordingly, this article draws on scholar-written pamphlets and the online message boards of Multaqā Ahl al-Ḥadīth to explore facial hair practice as a lens to contemporary negotiations of Salafi masculinity. In doing so, it analyzes the prescriptions and performance of a Salafi beard at two key homosocial sites –the barbershop and the military barracks –and what this practice can reveal about the entanglement of its wearer in broader questions of textual hermeneutics, political allegiance and fashion.