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date: 06 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Religion remained a significant factor in youth cultures that emerged during the twentieth century, and it continues to do so in the twenty-first century. In many places around the world, religious ideals held singular importance for young people’s understanding of themselves and their relationships with family members and friends. This is certainly the case in many Muslim societies. Understanding the role of religion in modern youth culture requires a deep engagement with young people’s personal experiences as well as the discourses that sought to circumscribe young people’s actions. One woman who reconciled tensions between religious ideals and emerging youth culture was Muna, who came of age in the Zanzibar Islands of East Africa during the late 1950s and 1960s. Muna reconciled these tensions by walking a fine line between adolescence and adulthood, femininity and masculinity, and respectability and mischievousness. She was a self-professed “tomboy” who resisted fulfilling the role of a proper Muslim “lady” as long as possible. If growing up meant abiding by religious codes that strictly controlled her behavior, then she would remain immature as long as possible. Young people like Muna, who tested the boundaries of religious codes governing their behavior, redefined religious “respectability” by asserting their own understandings of gender and sexuality. Young people at the forefront of these religious and cultural changes brought youth culture into the public sphere.

Keywords: religion, youth, Islam, gender, sexuality, culture, tomboy, public, respectability, modernity

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