Reading the Digital Muslim Romance

Author(s) Alicia Izharuddin
Contact Alicia Izharuddin, University of Malaya, Jalan Universiti 50603, Kuala Lumpur. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 15, Iss. 1, 2021, pp. 146-171
Published June 30, 2021
Type Article
Abstract This article considers the practices of social formation on the online self-publishing platform Wattpad. Interactive and interfaced with other social media, Wattpad was founded in 2006 by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen to facilitate self-publishing by well-known and emerging authors alike. Wattpad is popular among Malay readers and authors in Malaysia with stories clocking up millions of reads each. Most stories are aimed at women readers and preoccupied with themes of love and romance. However, this article turns its attention to the much-read Wattpad stories about forced marriage and romantic Islamic masculinity, the kinds of affordances Wattpad provides for Malay language authors and their readership, and the reading publics they cultivate. This article frames Wattpad as an archive of affect for vernacular religious engagement that mirrors the alternative spaces that women occupy as digital labourers and as agents of religious knowledge. It shows that digital spaces are affective spaces as much as they are domains that replicate and rewrite sharia-compliant gendered and religious relations offline.
Keywords gender, affect, vernacular religion, romance self-publishing, digital labour