What can Wall Street learn from Islamic banks?

Over the past two weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Tampa, FL and  also presented at the Global Donors Forum, organized by the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists in Washington D.C. While these two events brought together very different groups of scholars and practitioners, the panels on philanthropy had very similar people, interested in issues of global finance, cash flows, equity, social justice. I will focus on just a few ideas from scholars who are researching and working in this field, that is growing in importance and has, according to the researchers, the potential to address some of the structural issues that our current global system is ignoring. What can Islamic finance models offer to the ‘mainstream’ world of finance ?  This may seem like a difficult question to ask, much less answer, given the hysteria around anything Islamic and the purported negative influence of Islamic ideas in our world. For the sake of this discussion, I will not deal with the critiques of any political dimensions of Islam or its aspects of Islamic financing that have come under the scanner, due to post 9/11 securitization discourse. I will deal with that in another article, at a later date. This piece deals primarily with how the West is understanding Islamic finance and what lessons, if any, it can offer to the global capitalist system.index

In a book titled Islam and the Moral Economy (2006) Charles Tripp argues that Muslim scholars have devised strategies deal with capitalism, while remaining true to their faith. While there are those who have resorted to confronting the global capitalist system, a majority have aspired to innovation and ingenuity in search for a compromise and interaction with global capitalism. This is evident, from Wall Street to the Arab Street. Similarly, Lena Rethel (2011) has argued that the search for legitimacy among Islamic financial institutions has forced them to look for greater adoption of the Western norms of governance, knowledge structures making it reproduce the existing global financial order. This, despite of the efforts of these institutions to create a more equitable financial and economic order, based on the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad).

Dean of School of Advanced International Studies ( SAIS) Vali Nasr makes the case for looking at the intersections of Islamic piety with capitalism in the ‘Middle class’ Muslims around the world. In his book Forces of Fortune (2009) he says: “The United States has been supporting economic reform and business initiatives in the Muslim world, but with too much emphasis on working with the government planners and top-business elite. Change will not come from this upper crust – it has too much invested in the status quo and depends too heavily on the state. It is business with a small “b” that should hold our attention.” (p.12). While there has been a discourse of treating American Muslims as somewhat ‘exceptional,’ by virtue of being more diverse, economically more better off than the rest of the world, I would argue that at the level of practice of faith in day-to-day life, and in particular, that of charitable giving, these the parallels between American Muslims and those in the rest of the world are striking. While his emphasis on commerce and comparing the emergence of the middle class in Turkey, Iran and Dubai with Calvinistic mercantilism seems a bit stretched, there is certainly some merit in it. Like the Calvinists, the middle class Muslims of the world want to have their religion and their commerce too. It is apt to be reminded that the Prophet Muhammad was a merchant himself. But not in the style of current capitalists. That is a distinction that Nasr doesn’t make.

Nasr’s bigger contribution through this book is in arguing that it is time we look past fundamentalism and violence linked with Muslim societies as a framing issue and actually focus on development and related issues, if we are to gain a better understanding of these societies and what they have to contribute to the world. I concur.

How the capitalist notions of dealing with societal issues meet the arguably ‘socialist’ notions of wealth distribution in Islam are of interest in our discussion here. As Tripp says “The capacity of capitalism to be reinvented in the wake of the crises to which it has inevitably been prone has been one of the distinctive features of such as system, historically confounding those in the Islamic world and beyond who have seen crisis as the harbinger of self-destruction.” (p.3). He further argues that Islamic system’s response has been to rein in the processes of exploitation and to make it authentically yet also productively part of the Islamic system, with an emphasis on building a ‘real’ economy, as opposed to a ‘speculative’ one, as on Wall Street. Tripp also says that the responses to capitalism have been varied, across the Muslim world, and not singular. The development of Islamic banks, mutual funds that are Shariah compliant, social investment funds and the like are examples of this new vocabulary of understanding and making sense of the capitalist economy. My attempt in my study will be to map this intersection of Islamic norms of giving and the mainstream notions of giving that are arguably influenced by capitalistic norms, as it occurs in the nonprofit sector in the American Muslim sphere.

 An ‘alternate economic rationality’? One of the main critiques of the capitalist system is the commodification of both money and people. As Tripp points out in his book, in Islamic thought, the dominant social imaginary is the subservience of human society to the will of God. “Service to the creator is the goal of existence, social and individual, and, insofar as the moral purpose enshrined in such service is only possible in the company of other beings, the telos of society is evident. This was the function by which society should be judged.” (p.19). How does this tally with the extreme individualism that capitalism promotes? While not central to my study, this forms the background to the kind of inquiry that I am undertaking. The notions of zakat and sadaqa (forms of charitable giving) as ‘financial worship,’ are also important to keep in mind (Benthall, 1999).

Lessons to be learnt from the Islamic financial model?As Rethel (2011) has argued, the reorientation towards religious and cultural values in Muslim societies both in the ‘West’ and the ‘East’ and the rise of the Muslim middle class that has coincided with the rise in demand for Shariah compliant tools of finance can be seen as an alternative to the existing global order. She has used the lens of legitimacy to explore the extent to which the Islamic finance system offers us alternative to the existing system. Both Rethel (2011) and Tripp(2006) do seem cautiously optimistic with the prospects of Islamic finance offering an alternative to the existing system, Rethel more than Tripp. While this seems so, one might ask: what is one to make of the existing demand for the Islamic finance products, increasing market share of the industry and indeed a greater push among Muslim nations and societies for expansion of the Islamic finance markets? At the ontological level, will this change things, even as epistemically, it just seems to be replicating the logic of the Western economic system?

Jane Pollard, another researcher whose work on Islamic charity in London, among the Somalis points to a strong sense of resilience and solidarity. This also complicates the understanding, in a postsecular world, of the religious practices of the Islamic Banking and Financial institutions. This system also offers us an opportunity to re-think territoriality, cosmopolitan legalities and neoliberalization. “In a world where sukuk traded in London and New York rest on English common law but are subject to the decisions of a Shari’ah scholar based in Pakistan, it might be the moment to reflect critically on how territory, embodiment and cosmopolitan legalities interest to shape different sorts of economic activity.” Pollard argues.

I would argue that despite the skepticism of the scholars mentioned above, Islamic finance is relatively new, a system that has not been fully tested yet and one that must be taken seriously. The industry came into existence in the 1970s, after the Oil embargo and the emergence of a dominant ‘Muslim solidarity,’ in the economic sphere. As Rethel says “Moreover, Islamic finance is not only an empirical phenomenon that warrants scholarly scrutiny, but also an intriguing analytical counterfactual. A literature that claims that a different world order is possible should become more curious about the potential of existing alternatives. Such an agenda could also support current efforts to expand, indeed, its narrow focus on mainly advanced, mainly Western Political economies.” (p.78). Rethel argues that Islamic financial system seeks its legitimacy from a moral and ethical system, based in the Quran and Sunnah – that prohibits interest, gambling, sale of haram (forbidden) products and speculation; all of which aim towards redistribution of wealth and risks. The growing Islamic finance sector, with over 300 institutions, $500 billion in cumulative assets and operations in 50 of the World Bank countries is not meant to be challenge to the West, but can be seen as the assertion of Islamic social and economic rationality argue Pollard and Sammers ( 2007). Ali Shari’ti, the Islamic scholar and Sayyid Qutb, the charismatic Egyptian scholar wrote about Islamic systems as being exceptional, in the sense that their epistemic categories would also need to break off completely with the Western modes, so as to create its own logic of society, finance and community. There was no space for a ‘syncretic’ evolution, so to say. Charles Tripp argues that the call for direct action versus reasoned debate made Qutb’s project a direct one, that of confrontation. But the question remains, how much of current thinking owes its genesis to that of Qutb’s thought. One can see that despite the prevalence of this thought in some circles, the likes of Yusuf Qaradawi and other influential scholars, who wield enormous influence are advocating a compromise of sorts. They are on the boards of Islamic banks and institutions that partner with Western investment banks and are finding ‘common ground’ to work and promote ‘welfare.’

Whether the Islamic banks and financial system will offer an alternative in the near future is perhaps a speculative question. The real one is how the entry of this system of banking and commerce impact the ‘mainstream’ system of finance. As this New York Times article points out, Islamic financial institutions are investing in the West and it seems to be business as usual. Will the vocabulary and ontological assumptions of Islamic finance shift the epistemic knowledge base of the current system is a much bigger question and one that cannot be answered here.

While it may seem that Islamic finance institutions are not adding anything spectacularly new, in terms of doing business ( on a day to day basis), the biggest contribution so far that they have made is to bring ‘ethics’ into the equation. As mentioned earlier, all instruments of Islamic banks and institutions have to comply with ethical norms that are mandated by scholars and comply with Shari’ah. This means no exploitatively high interest rates, no investment in exploitative business practices etc. While these are high moral principles that may sometimes be flouted, this is the game-changing aspect that Islamic institutions bring to the table. And this is perhaps the biggest lesson that Wall Street can learn from them. Ethics can no longer be ignored. And moreover, the commodification of people and money must stop.






Two visions of India ?

Having spent my teen years in post-economic liberalization India of the 1990s’, I have seen the growth and transformation of my home-country over the last two decades. My hometown of Bangalore transformed from a sleepy ‘pensioner’s paradise’, as it was known to become a booming ‘Silicon Valley’ of India. All in a matter of less than twenty years or so. While this has brought obvious benefits, in terms of increased infrastructure, better access to technology and the tangible benefits of Capitalism, the other effects, in terms of societal embedding of markets is less obvious. There have been other negative impacts of this massive growth as well – with increased inequality, exploitation of natural and human resources. Indian voters hold up their voter ID car

While astronomical growth rates of 10 percent GDP are long over, there is still hope and aspiration among Indians, who are seemingly ‘tired’ of the ‘corruption’ of the Congress led UPA government, led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, the man who ushered in the economic reforms, that transformed the economy. I will briefly examine the claims made by the Congress Party and the BJP, in terms of their ‘inclusive development’ mandate and analyze how either party is likely to treat the poor, vulnerable and other minorities in a country, that has, in some measures become the standard-bearer for democratic governance in the ‘developing world’. While many of these arguments are normative, I believe that politics is ultimately about ‘vision’ and not merely about technocracy. While bureaucrats and public servants execute this vision, it is up to the leaders, who are elected, to craft this vision and present it before the people, who may or may not buy into it. Let us briefly turn to the upcoming national elections in May 2014. There are, I would argue, two visions of India before us, represented by the two largest national parties. Arguably, there is not a whole lot of difference in terms of their economic policies, and the only perceptible difference seems to be in their social vision, of what kind of a India they foresee. While the AAP Party and regional parties are definitely a part of the plurality of Indian democratic system, they do not have a national mandate and influence.

Much is being written about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Prime Ministerial Candidate, Narendra Modi, who is the current Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. As a front-runner to the Prime Minster’s post, his personal and professional life has come under scrutiny, as is the case with any candidate, running for the national position, in the world’s largest democracy. While his supporters swear by his ability to ‘turn-around’ the economy of Gujarat and claim that he will bring about the same ‘business acumen’ to governance, larger questions about inclusion, model of governance and growth remain unexamined. While there is much rhetoric among both sides, there seems to be an overemphasis on one or the other aspect – the Gujarat riots of 2002 being argued as one of the most egregious examples of his lack of leadership. This discourse is again, one that questions the leaders ‘vision’ of leading a country.

As Dr. Abusaleh Sharief, a prominent Economist and member of the Prime Minster Manmohan Singh’s advisory team on minority affairs argues about post-Independence India’s growth and how it impacted the poor and minorities: “ During this phase of governance and development, marginalized groups had little knowledge as to the relative position they occupied in the complex web of diversity amongst the population which was explicit in terms of the caste, ethnicity and religion in India. During the early period after the Independence, the overall governance and bureaucratic structure was heavily represented by highly educated upper caste Hindus and the welfare schemes and poverty alleviation programs were in the league of pilot projects or at the most in the genre of relief programs. It is now a recorded history, however, that socialistic pattern of economic policy did not facilitate fast pace of economic growth rather it was characteristic of rigid state control and bureaucratic overbearing.”Dr. Sharief further says that there is differential in the way that communities have progressed, based on their geographical location. He says: “ There is a sort of double whammy faced by deprived groups and further the depth of deprivation and exploitation emerges from other factors such as occupational and work related exploitation, child labor and gender bias. Therefore to understand mechanism to address deprivations amongst the SCs/ STs and Muslims it is essential to lay bare all such dimensions which are a type of whirlpool or a sort of trap from which those affected have to be rescued and rehabilitated not only on the basis of empathy but with the aim of empowering whole communities so that they make their rightful claim of equal citizens of India.” Further, since the senior positions of administration are dominated by the upper caste, those in the lower levels of the caste ladder have serious educational and skill-set dis-advantage. He adds that it is important to mainstream equity, inclusion and ‘increase the pie’ that is available to be shared.  This election is being fought on issues of social equity, corruption and related matters – something that needs to be kept in mind. While Dr. Sharief and even Amartya Sen seem to be advocates of the Neoliberal framework – albeit with some constraints – there are other experts who have seriously questioned the wisdom of pursuing this growth agenda.

Congress and BJP’s development promises: A brief look at the election manifestos

Let us take a brief look at what each party has promised in its election platform for 2014. While the Congress party has stuck to its founding principles as an ‘all inclusive’ party, that brings together the masses and offers a pluralistic vision of India. The manifesto begins with “Our central values resonate the very idea of India that has come to us over the centuries, an India that rejoices in and celebrates its many diversities, and builds on these diversities to strengthen the bonds of unity through secularism, pluralism, inclusion and social justice. This is the India that Mahatma Gandhi envisaged.” While it brags about the Green Revolution, White Revolution and various other schemes launched by the Congress Party through its governance tools, it fails to acknowledge the scale of corruption that shook the government in the recent past. While corruption has been a part of Indian politics and there are even arguments made by scholars that corruption, contrary to popular belief, may be good for a developing economy, it has come to haunt the party; as it seeks to come back to power. Its 15 point program for development seems ambitious and progressive – including promises of increasing expenditure on education, women’s empowerment, encouragement of entrepreneurship among other items.

On the other hand, BJP’s manifesto is based on attacking the UPA performance over the past few years. While there is clearly an ideological orientation in its manifesto, presenting India as ‘One civilization’, while it is clearly not the case; with influx of various cultures, religions, over the centuries; and a plurality, that the BJP does not acknowledge, this is as high in rhetoric as is the Congress Party’s manifesto. Some of the contentious issues that go against its claim of a ‘united India’ are the party’s insistence on pursuing the Ram Temple agenda that has been at the heart of the party’s rise to power – an extremely divisive and religiously divisive agenda. How the party reconciles this with its vision of ‘unity’ remains questionable.

It is interesting to see that both the parties accept the status quo of market-led reforms, with neither of them questioning the international trade flows, capital flows and other macro-economic aspects of how Indian economy is structured and how it impacts the common man, on a day to day basis. This seems to be off the table, for obvious reasons. Neither party wants to question the consumption habits of the 300 million plus strong middle class.

In conclusion, one can argue that no matter who comes to power at the center, problems of corruption, lack of opportunities and lack of law and order in some parts of the country will not disappear. The rhetoric of ‘clean-governance’ by Mr. Modi seems to be just that, as his government is also accused of favoring business houses and has relied on cronyism as much as the Congress. Further, as Ram Guha, historian and popular commenter says in this interview, the tide is turning in BJP’s favor because of the disgust Indians feel towards the Congress, that has not ‘delivered’ on the promises it made. He says “But there’s such an air of disgust with the present government, so people are willing to overlook his angularities because he can’t be worse than what’s come before.  The culture of democracy has been advanced, admittedly in an ugly way, by social media, [and by] expressing opinions freely through street protests and institutions of democracy such as state legislatures and courts.” Speaking of the youth and their lack of enchantment with Rahul Gandhi, he says “But that doesn’t mean though that they are enchanted by Modi. Some will go with regional parties, or AAP. In large sections of the country, the BJP has no presence at all.” Finally, one may look at the notion of ‘development as freedom’ that Amartya Sen, India’s most celebrated economist has argued for. His is an inclusive agenda for development and this is clearly articulated in his book Development as Freedom, where he makes a case for equating development to personal freedom. Unless people are able to pursue what they want, and are able to succeed, within some measures; they are not truly free, Sen points out. He is an advocate for both the processes that would bring about freedom and also the actual result of increasing freedoms. In democratic lingo, this would be a call for both procedural and substantive freedoms. He points to notions of development and their direct relevance to freedom – that of the growth of democracy and drop in famines in a country, as an example. So the question then becomes : Which party or group of leaders are able to provide this element of societal and economic freedom to all Indians? Irresepctive of the complex relations of power, caste, hierarchy and corruption; the party that gives this to the Indian people deserves to be the one that governs for the next five years.




How Can Geography Help us Understand Philanthropy?

I attended the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Tampa, FL last week. As the premier go-to meeting of its kind, this conference brings together some of the brightest minds in the world, every year. And this was evident in the two panels on philanthropy that were organized. Covering a wide range of issues from feminist geography, cultural geography and economic geography; the panel was a resounding success in bringing the various fields together to address some of the key debates in philanthropy and ways of theorizing them. I will share a few key ideas here, as presented by some of the scholars and offer my analysis of how the two disciplines can enrich each other.

Photo credit : www.ivymax.com
Photo credit : http://www.ivymax.com

Elyse Gordon of Washington University is researching current ways of theorizing philanthropy, and is using Gibson-Graham’s ‘politics of possibility’ to explore the dimensions of philanthropy that are often not framed as such in critiques of the sector, that tend to rely on Neoliberal understandings of the industry. She said: “While my dissertation work explores geographies of philanthropy in the American North West more broadly, today’s talk works through a specific theoretical engagement to help expand our theoretical engagement beyond a neoliberal starting point. Rather than the tendency to critique the nonprofit and philanthropic sector through neoliberalization, I use the notion of ‘politics of possibility’ to offer new ways of theorizing philanthropy.” Gordon used notions of space and relatedness drawn from the work of Marie Loiuse Pratt to push her research agenda forward. Pratt (1991) defines ‘contact zones’, as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in asymmetrical relations of power defined by colonialism, or their aftermaths. I use this concept to reconsider the model of community that we use to theorize and that are under challenge today.[i]” As Pratt says that ethnographers have used the concept of transculturation to describe the ways in which members of subjugated groups select and incorporate materials from a dominant culture transmitted to them. This term, she reminds us was coined by Cuban scholar Fernando Ortiz to go beyond the simplistic and reductionist tropes of assimilation and acculturation. Similarly, the notion of a nation as an imagined community is also a theoretical construct that is the basis of much theorizing. This notion of a community is almost utopian, Pratt argues and points out that this abstracted sense of utopian community is assumed to be the norm in various fields, be it in linguistics, sociology or related fields. The notion of contact zones is a useful way to contrast this utopia of our imagination, she says. This seems to be very similar to the notion of liminality in Anthropology, where people and ideas are seen as an in-between, not fully here nor there. The slaves of Antebellum America were such liminal figures, argues Kambiz Ghaneabassiri (2010). In many cases, they were not fully Muslim, not Christian, not fully American nor fully African; and hence were co-opted by some missionaries to preach Christianity in Africa.


Moving from physical geography to that of the digital space, Roberta Hawkins of the University of Guelph in Canada spoke about ‘Slacktivism’, and how ‘caring at a distance’ can be conceptualized, in an increasingly digitized world. By some estimates, about 40% of all donations to large nonprofits occur online through the Internet, she said, pointing to the increasing importance of the digital and internet medium. But does this also mean that passing on information or just sharing it on Face Book or other social media amount to actually doing something. Not quite, she added, showcasing some campaigns by UNICEF and other agencies that sought to show the difference between just sharing information versus sharing it and actually doing something concrete, like donating money or volunteering time. She also used case examples of Join my Village, a nonprofit that raises money through unconventional means. She showed both the pros and cons of the model and argued that digital activism is in need of serious reconsideration, lest we lose focus of what is at stake, when it comes to nonprofits fulfilling their mission. In the drive to gain more ‘likes’, nonprofits end up doing some unprofessional tactics that may not be directly related to their mission, she argued.

Among the other presenters, Jane Pollard of the Queen Mary University, London shared her research on the Somali residents of East side London. Her research was framed around resilience, and what the city of London and perhaps the whole of the financial world can learn from the example of these poor, often dispossessed immigrants. Her research, which was largely qualitative, involving survey of database of Islamic banks, interviews with about 60 participants and a partnership with the local mosque yielded rich insights into how these immigrants help one another, in times of trouble, share their often limited incomes. “These immigrants learnt charitable practices on the journeys they undertook and internalized them. Once ‘settled’ in somewhat better conditions, these Somalis believe that it is their duty to help their fellow Clans men/women. This tradition is rooted in both the religious tradition of sadaqa and zakat as well as that of local clan based giving tradition called Baho”, Pollard said. While the scale of this giving is small and almost a fraction of the entire GDP of London city, the lessons we can learn from them are large, she argued. Especially, looking at the framework of resilience, I believe that these small local communities can teach us a thing or two about financial resilience, community cohesion.

In a related paper on Islamic Finance[ii], she, along with her co-author argues that :“Building from recent debates about territoriality, embeddedness, and relationality in economic geography, we respond to calls for a more complex treatment of agency, developing the concept of cosmopolitan legalities to capture the dynamic multiterritorial, relational governance of Islamic banking and finance (IBF) that melds Western and Islamic financial rules and practices through the embodied religious authority of Shari’a scholars. These complex legalities demonstrate the significance of postcolonial and religious sociospatial contexts in the formation of financial markets suggestive of an evolving postcolonial political economy of “south-driven” alliances in a financial landscape dominated by neoliberal rationalities and subjectivities.” This idea builds on the notion that Islamic finance and concepts of community do pose a challenge to the concepts of nation-state, community as defined by territoriality etc, given that the Islamic notion of Ummah, is centered on faith/belief, rather than strict national boundaries. The same is true of the understanding of what constitutes a right or a duty. While one can argue that the Western legal tradition is based on the ‘rights’ of citizens, much of Islamic law is based on ‘duties’ of citizens to the state and the ruler, at the same time holding him/her accountable. These debates have become salient in the aftermath of the great recession of 2008, which shook the capitalist system we are a part of, to the core. While those economies and systems that are tied in intimately to the Neoliberal framework suffered, those that were at the periphery did not suffer, as much; Pollard argued. This includes banks, institutions and societies that used Islamic Finance.

In my own research of American Muslim faith-based organizations (FBOs), I am finding that there is enormous plurality of interpretation of how philanthropy occurs. And this is manifest across the board, in terms of how the messaging for attracting donors occurs and how zakat and sadaqa are being re-imagined. Pratt’s notion of contact zones is certainly applicable here too. As Kambiz Ghaneabassiri argues in his book A History of Islam in America, many of the practices of African American slaves, many of whom were Muslim survived in the new environment in Antebellum America in a new form. He points to the idea of Saraka, or the giving of Rice Cakes among women in Georgia, that extended the boundary of a ‘community’ and built a new imagined community through the act of charitable giving. These practices point to the transculturation of philanthropy among American Muslims. And this is also evident in how many of the practices of Cause marketing and consumer philanthropy are being incorporated by the FBOs. Also, given the plurality of interpretation of giving norms within the Muslim community, these are being shaped in ways that are both distinct and resonating with the particular ethnic, racial group. The narrative of a ‘one-dimensional’ notion of giving is simplistic and false and I hope to build on the notion of plurality, that is inherent in the Islamic interpretive norms, to demonstrate how these notions of giving are evolving and informing mainstream notions of giving, as well. Especially, post 9/11, the notion of Islamic giving linked to security issues and trans-national purposes has become hegemonic and as eclipsed all other discourses of giving. I hope to delve into the ways in which the FBOs under study cross boundaries, borders – both physical and otherwise, to define and redefine what philanthropy is, and what its purposes can be. Given that over 40% of Islamic Relief’s funds are used in domestic US projects and about 60% are spent on international projects, this discourse of internationalization of giving among American Muslims is ever-present. American Muslims are also unique in the sense that they inhabit several spaces, all at once. As part of the Islamic community, that is truly global, they have affiliations or attachments with the rest of the world, as part of members of their nation-state, they have affiliations with their particular nation states. This is also an interesting dimension, as American Muslims are perhaps the most diverse (racially and ethnically) religious community in the U.S. according to a recent Pew Research study.

Geography can be very useful in my research as well. As seen in the work of Gordon, Pratt, Pollard and Hawkins, philanthropy meets and intersects with geography in many interesting ways. While culture and its study is always seen in territorial terms, this intersection offers us an interesting and possibly ground-breaking way to look at the impact of giving and its relationship with how we think of ‘community’, ‘society’ and ‘culture’. While globalization and its discontents have forced scholars around the world to re-examine the value of a ‘shrinking global village’, philanthropy may offer us hope, as well as some empirical examples of goodwill, faith and the enduring value of thinking of the world as one. The plurality of our world may be visible if we see the world through the lens of Geography.


[i] Pratt Marie Louise (1991). Art of Contact Zones. Professions. MLA

[ii] Pollard JS, Samers M, (2013) Governing Islamic Finance: Territory, Agency, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Financial Geographies. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. P.710-726