In Amma's Healing Room

In Amma's Healing Room

Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India
Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/23/2009
Format: paper 320 pages, 22 b&w photos, 1 figures, 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21837-7
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Georgia Author of the Year - nonfiction/biography category
“[I]t is extremely salubrious to see the ways Islam works in the lives of ordinary people who are not politicized in their religious lives. . . . No other book on South Asia has material like this.” —Ann Grodzins Gold

In Amma’s Healing Room is a compelling study of the life and thought of a female Muslim spiritual healer in Hyderabad, South India. Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger describes Amma’s practice as a form of vernacular Islam arising in a particular locality, one in which the boundaries between Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity are fluid. In the “healing room,” Amma meets a diverse clientele that includes men and women, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian, of varied social backgrounds, who bring a wide range of physical, social, and psychological afflictions. Flueckiger collaborated closely with Amma and relates to her at different moments as daughter, disciple, and researcher. The result is a work of insight and compassion that challenges widely held views of religion and gender in India and reveals the creativity of a tradition often portrayed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as singular and monolithic.

Author Bio

Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger is Professor of Religion at Emory University and author of Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India.


"This informative study is well illustrated with the author's photographs and immensely suitable for undergraduate and graduate students. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice

". . . This is a timely ethnography . . . in a time in which the high volume of negative religious rhetoric about Islam and in the name of Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity have subsumed the centrality of love in religious teachings and rituals." —Anthropological Quarterly

"[I]t is extremely salubrious to see the ways Islam works in the lives of ordinary people who are not politicized in their religious lives. . . . No other book on South Asia has material like this." —Ann Grodzins Gold

". . .
In Amma’s Healing Room is a well-written ethnographic study of a complex and sensitive domain of Muslim religious experience and, as such, is a very welcome addition not only to the expanding body of anthropological work on Islam as a world religion. It broadens the anthropological understanding of the various forms taken by Islamic religious authority and offers new insights into the vitality and diversity of Muslim ritual practices in South Asia." —Magnus Marsden, School of Oriental and African Studies, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , Vol.15. 1 March 2009

"Only rarely are books powerful enough to capture the imaginations and emotions of our students: this is one such book." —Susan Snow Wadley, Syracuse University,
History of Religions , Vol. 48.1 May 2009

In Amma's Healing Room is a terrific book. Well structured and well written, it will be a great addition to courses on religious ethnography, popular and contemporary Islam, South Asian religions, ritual studies, and gender studies." —the Journal of Religion , 88.2, April 2008

"This book is a compelling ethnographic study . . . Flueckiger's work goes a long way towards shattering the categories and fixed identities commonly associated with South Asia. . . . The emphasis on gender makes this work even more invaluable for anyone trying to study religion in South Asia, or indeed, Islam, as a lived experience." —
South Asia Research , V.29.2 July 2009

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration

Introduction: Called to Amma's Courtyard
1. Setting the Stage: The Healing Room, Its Actors, and Its Rhythms
2. The Healing System
3. Patient Narratives in the Healing Room
4. Negotiating Gender in the Healing Room
5. Religious Identities at the Crossroads
6. Immersed in Remembrance and Song: Religious Identities, Authority, and Gender at the Sam?
Conclusion: Vernacular Islam Embedded in Relationships

Appendix: Death and Difference: A Conversation
Select Bibliography