Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Janoski

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Borgatti

Abstract

This dissertation investigates conversion to Islam in the United States analyzing egocentric networks of 30 converts to Islam and that of 30 people in the control group. By comparing Michigan, where there is a large Muslim community, to Kentucky, where there is smaller community, it demonstrates that conversion occurs through weak Muslim ties in the former, while it occurs through strong ties in the latter. Conversion is a life changing event with lasting consequences on both the structure and composition of people’s egocentric social network. The egocentric social network data from prior-to-conversion and post-conversion indicate that conversion influences change in the egocentric social networks of Caucasian and African-American converts in a different way. When Caucasians convert to Islam their egocentric social networks tend to fragment into two different sub-networks of Muslim and that of non-Muslim with a low level of connection between the two networks. On the other hand, when African-Americans convert, their egocentric social networks shrink to homophilous ties. This type of change affects the course of the identity building such that converts situated in fragmented networks are more likely to developed failed conversion identities whereas those positioned in well connected and homophilous networks are more likely to develop successful identities. Identity building differs for male and female converts as well. Female conversion identity is more visible, generating stronger negative reactions from friends and family members than that of male identity building. As such, female converts are more likely to revert to their prior-to-conversion belief because their conversion identity is not verified compared to male converts, whose conversion identities are more likely to be verified. Finally, this study contributes to the understanding of diffusion of Islam in the United States.

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