Female, Veiled, Active: Muslim Professionals in Self-development Training in Today’s Kyrgyzstan

  • Manja Stephan-Emmrich (Author)
  • Mukaram Toktogulova (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This article investigates the nexus between private Islamic education initiatives and spiritual self-development trainings that address in particular Muslim women in Kyrgyzstan. Translating religious knowledge into a pedagogy for self-development that works through biography, embodiment and persuasive aesthetics, publicly active veiled Muslim women contribute to the pluralisation of Islamic knowledge circulation in Kyrgyzstan and shape a kind of female leadership distinct from that of traditional religious authorities. Tackling Muslim professionalism as a practice of articulation that works through an embodied pedagogy, the authors highlight how professional Muslim women engage in affective politics and construct collective subjectivities that build on notions of Muslim modernity by promoting the imaginary of the active, self-reliant and knowledgeable Muslim woman. Thinking Muslim professionalism through affective work, this article seeks to better understand how Muslim renewal and religious revitalisation inspire educational and media professionalism in today’s Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, the paper discusses the ways in which publicly active veiled Muslim women build inclusive communities of belonging through professional activities that transcend social and spatial boundaries.


Kyrgyzstan, women, Islam, Muslim professionalism, spiritual self-development, embodied pedagogy, religious knowledge, educational activism