- Tulane University
Mixed Blessings: Islam, Gender, and Revival in a West African Town
I propose to write a book examining how the current Islamic revivals in Dogondoutchi (a Mawri town of rural Niger) have created new understandings of Islam and of people's places in it. My book will explore 1) how Islam functions as the privileged vehicle for the invention and sustenance of a new moral order; 2) how Mawri women have become central to the creation of this moral order; 3) how they actively participate in ongoing debates about Muslim womanhood, at times resisting emerging definitions of women's roles. Based on ethnographic and archival research, the book will document how new ideologies of gender, power, and domesticity have enabled female residents to secure their religious identity while simultaneously limiting their autonomy and self-expression.
Haunted: Possession, Time, and the Agency of the No Longer
This project takes seriously claims that schools in Niger are haunted. Focusing on schoolgirls possessed by spirits grieving for lost homes, it asks what the past brings along when it returns. Spirits are thought to attack girls to make it known they were evicted when the trees they lived in were cut to build schools. The eviction speaks to a broad history of iconoclasm that secured Islam’s presence in places previously centered on spirit veneration. Today the landscape is animated by the violence of the past while the harm spirits cause unfurls into the future. By examining spirit possession through the lens of time, this project considers the narratives of loss broadcast by spirits; the wider claims about the past these narratives authorize; and how these claims call into question the futures promised by education. This work will be disseminated in public writing as well as through engagement with journalists and writers who cover West Africa.