Dr Johan Rasanayagam

Dr Johan Rasanayagam

Senior Lecturer


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272191
The University of Aberdeen Room G18
Edward Wright Building
University of Aberdeen
AB24 3QY


Johan Rasanayagam joined the department in 2005. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Uzbekistan, Central Asia where his doctoral dissertation examined the themes of the state and citizenship. More recently, he has conducted research on Islam in Central Asia, specifically on the processes of moral reasoning through which individuals come to an understanding of what it means to be a good Muslim. He is currently developing research interests in the category of religion and the secular in Muslim contexts.


Research Interests

Uzbekistan and Central Asia, postsocialist societies, the anthropology of Islam, morality and subjectivity, healing practices and spirit possession, religion and the secular, politics and the state.


Teaching Responsibilities

AT3534 Religion, Power and Belief

AT4517 Morality and Belief in Islam


Further Info

Selected Publications



Islam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: The Morality of Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011).

CESS book prize for 2012 for the best social science book on Central Eurasia published in 2010 or 2011.

Edited collections

With Madeleine Reeves and Judith Beyer Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2014)

Guest editor: Post-Soviet Islam: An Anthropological PerspectiveCentral Asian Survey 25(3) 2006

Journal articles 

Anthropology in conversation with an Islamic tradition: Emmanuel Levinas and the practice of critique. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 24(1) 2018 : 90-106 DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.12753

The politics of culture and the space for Islam: Soviet and post-Soviet imaginaries in Uzbekistan, Central Asian Survey, 33(1) 2014 : 1-14

Informal economy, informal state: The case of Uzbekistan. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.  Vol. 31 (11/12) 2011 : 681 - 696

Healing with spirits and the formation of Muslim selfhood in post-Soviet Uzbekistan, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12(2) 2006 : 377-393.

Post Soviet Islam: An Anthropological Perspective. Introduction, Central Asian Survey, Special issue 25(3) 2006 : 219-233.

Market, State and Community in Uzbekistan: reworking the concept of the informal economy, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Working paper, No. 59 2003

Spheres of communal participation: placing the state within local modes of interaction in rural Uzbekistan, Central Asian Survey, 21(1) 2002 : 55-70

Book chapters

Counter-Extremism, Secularism, and the Category of Religion in the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan: Should We Be Studying Islam at All? in Marlene Laruelle (ed.) Constructiing the Uzbek State: Narratives of Post-Soviet Years (Lanham: Lexington Books. 2017) 151-168

Beyond Islam: Tradition and the intelligibility of Experience, in Magnus Marsden and Konstantinos Retsikas (eds) Articulating Islam: Anthropological Approaches to Muslim Worlds (Heidelberg: Springer, 2013) 101-118

Morality, self and power: the idea of the mahalla in Uzbekistan, in Monica Heintz (ed.) The Anthropology of Moralities (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009) 102-117

Central Asia, in Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer (eds.) Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology second edition (London: Routledge, 2009)

I'm not a Wahhabi: State power and Muslim Orthodoxy in Uzbekistan, in Chris Hann (ed), The Postsocialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe (Munich: Lit Verlag, 2006), 99-124

Etnichnost, gosudarstvennaya ideologiya i ponyatie "obshina" v Uzbekistanye', in S.Abashin V.Bushkov (ed), Ferganskaya dolina: Etnichnost, Etnicheskie protsessy, Etnicheskie konflikty (Moscow: Nauka, 2004), 145-163

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