Believing in South Central: Everyday Islam in the City of Angels (Paperback)
The area of Los Angeles known as South Central is often overshadowed by dismal stereotypes, problematic racial stigmas, and its status as the home to some of the city’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods. Amid South Central’s shifting demographics and its struggles with poverty, sociologist Pamela J. Prickett takes a closer look, focusing on the members of an African American Muslim community and exploring how they help each other combat poverty, job scarcity, violence, and racial injustice. Prickett’s engaging ethnography relates how believers in this longstanding religious community see Islam as a way of life, a comprehensive blueprint for individual and collective action, guiding how to interact with others, conduct business, strive for progress, and cultivate faith.
Prickett offers deep insights into the day-to-day lived religion of the Muslims who call this community home, showing how the mosque provides a system of social support and how believers deepen their spiritual practice not in spite of, but through, conditions of poverty. Prickett breaks past the stigmas of urban poverty, revealing a complex and vibrant community by telling the stories of longstanding residents of South Central—like Sister Ava, who offers food to the local unhoused people and finds the sacred in her extensive DVD collection. In addition to her portraits of everyday life among Muslims in South Central, Prickett also provides vivid and accessible descriptions of Ramadan and histories of the mosque, situates this community within the larger story of the Nation of Islam, explores gender issues, and unpacks the interaction between African American Muslims and South Asian and Arab American Muslims, revealing both the global and local significance of this religious tradition.
About the Author
Pamela J. Prickett, PhD, is an urban ethnographer and assistant professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam.
"Prickett spent many years attending services and events at the Masjid al- Quran (MAQ) temple in South Central Los Angeles, embedding herself deeply in the lives of the predominantly African American Muslim community that worshipped there. The result is this compassionate and generous ethnography, which explores the religious, economic, and gendered lives of the small Black community of Muslim worshippers at MAQ. . . . Believing in South Central marries affectionate respect for the author’s subjects with a deep cultural and historical understanding of the African American Muslim community."
“Smart and highly original, Believing in South Central details how a small Muslim community in South Central, Los Angeles, makes meaning of their faith in the midst of a changing racial landscape and a declining community of believers. Prickett brings nuanced analysis, beautiful prose, and seamless narration together in this ethnography that will expand scholars’ understanding of how African Americans practice their Islamic faith outside Arab and South Asian Muslim communities."
— Ula Y. Taylor, author of The Promise of Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam
“Believing in South Central is an amazing book. What Prickett has achieved with her writing style is extraordinary. I found myself getting to know the characters, engrossed in each of the rich ethnographic stories that tell us so much about how religion is deeply intertwined with race, class, and gender.”
— Melissa Wilde, author of Birth Control Battles: How Race and Class Divided American Religion