Lone Star Muslims

Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

288 pages

5 tables

December, 2014

ISBN: 9781479844807



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Ahmed Afzal is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purchase College, State University of New York.

All books by Ahmed Afzal

Lone Star Muslims offers an engaging and insightful look at contemporary Muslim American life in Texas. It illuminates the dynamics of the Pakistani Muslim community in Houston, a city with one of the largest Muslim populations in the south and southwestern United States. 
Drawing on interviews and participant observation at radio stations, festivals, and ethnic businesses, the volume explores everyday Muslim lives at the intersection of race, class, profession, gender, sexuality, and religious sectarian affiliation to demonstrate the complexity of the South Asian experience. 
Importantly, the volume incorporates narratives of gay Muslim American men of Pakistani descent, countering the presumed heteronormativity evident in most of the social science scholarship on Muslim Americans and revealing deeply felt affiliations to Islam through ritual and practice. It also includes narratives of members of the highly skilled Shia Ismaili Muslim labor force employed in corporate America, of Pakistani ethnic entrepreneurs, the working class and the working poor employed in Pakistani ethnic businesses, of community activists, and of radio program hosts.   
Decentering dominant framings that flatten understandings of transnational Islam and Muslim Americans, such as “terrorist” on the one hand, and “model minority” on the other, Lone Star Muslims offers a glimpse into a variety of lived experiences. It shows how specificities of class, Islamic sectarian affiliation, citizenship status, gender, and sexuality shape transnational identities and mediate racism, marginalities, and abjection.


  • "This engaging work on Pakistani American and Pakistani immigrant experiences in Texas offers both in-depth ethnography and insightful theoretical discussions. Afzal makes major contributions to the wide array of interdisciplinary issues he covers: the case studies are innovative, the research sensitively conducted, and the conclusions compellingly presented."

    —Karen Leonard, University of California, Irvine

  • "Afzal deftly puts ethnography to work in describing the complexities facing Pakistanis in the Lone Star State. This significant book demonstrates how Muslims confront a wide range of issues such as racism, sexuality, and class and gender roles, while offering nuanced lessons from everyday life."

    —Junaid Rana, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • "Throughout this book, Afzal demonstrates the limits of homogenized images of ‘Muslims’, powerfully capturing the pleasures and hopes, but also the suffering and uncertainties shaping a South Asian experience in the United States today… This is an important study, not simply of Pakistani Muslims or immigration, but of religion, sexuality and place making the United States… It is an exemplary ethnography, one that makes an important contribution well beyond the disciplinary boundaries of cultural anthropology. It is accessible to the general reader… and deserves to figure in academic programs spanning urban studies, religious studies, as well as studies of contemporary sexuality."

    Ethnic and Racial Studies

  • "Lone Star Muslims is an important addition to the literature on Asian and Muslim Americans, the contemporary metropolitan South, and the South Asian diaspora…. Among the many strengths of the book are poignant, perceptive glimpses into the lives of individuals who, all too often, remain invisible and voiceless to all but the most observant."

    Journal of Asian American Studies

  • "Through chapters on Houston’s ethno-racial history, “model-minority” Ismaili Muslims in corporate America, Pakistani American small businesses and the underclass that sustains them, gay men of Pakistani descent, and the strategic importance of local cultural festivals and radio respectively, Afzal’s monograph intersects with such different academic fields as ethnic studies, Asian American studies, southern studies, and queer studies… Lone Star Muslims is … a valuable contribution to scholarship, breaking new ground across several academic disciplines."

    Journal of American Studies

  • "An important addition to the ethnographic study of Muslim and Pakistani Americans as well as the broader anthropological study of immigrant lives and transnational identities, Lone Star Muslims trains a remarkably wide lens on Pakistanis and Pakistani Americans in Houston. To his considerable credit and using multisited methods, Ahmed Afzal ensures diverse coverage of various sectors of Houston Pakistani communities."

    American Anthropologist

  • "Methodologically and theoretically, Lone Star Muslims opens up new possibilities for research of transnational communities in the U.S. Afzal’s decision to conduct his fieldwork in Houston addresses the long ignored reality that the American South has become an increasingly popular destination for South Asian and Muslim immigrants. Afzal’s multi-sited approach… recognizes the heterogeneity of the Pakistani American experience along lines of race, class, gender, religion, and sexuality."

    Anthropological Quarterly

  • "Ahmed Afzal’s Lone Star Muslims is an ambitious project that reaches across Asian American, Muslim American and South Asian American studies to question how Islam and diasporic South Asian histories are connected to everyday negotiations of transnational Pakistani Muslim identity and practice in Houston, Texas….As a project that details the diversity of a transnational community, Afzal’s book is a significant contribution to critical literature on South Asian Muslim identity in post 9/11 America."

    Social Anthropology

  • "Lone Star Muslim contributes in significant ways to the study of Muslim communities… there is much to recommend Afzal’s work."

    Reading Religion

  • "In this thought-provoking dual treatment of the historical legacy of Texas and the diasporic experience of Ismaili Shi’a and homosexual Muslims living in Houston and its suburbs, Afzal argues against the works of scholars presenting the various facets of the South Asian community as a monolith of Islamic practices and heterosexuality… This is new at the forefront of religion."


  • "Lone Star Muslims portrays the 'heterogeneity of the Muslim American experience in the early twenty-first century,' which is sorely needed when Muslims are easily stereotyped and vilified; it also teaches us that there are 'space for building alliances and solidarity' within ethnic Muslim communities and between them and the wider society.  The book is a valuable contribution to the anthropology of American Islam."

    Anthropology Review Database