The Islam in Africa Working Group (Center for African Studies) presents
A Symposium on Religious Minorities in Muslim Africa
January 25-26, 2019 | 404 Grinter Hall, University of Florida
This symposium focuses on religious minorities in Muslim societies in Africa. Muslims in Africa have long had encounters with various “others,” including religious others. These include Christians and adherents of so-called African religions, as well as Shi’a, the Ahmadiyya, and others among majority Sunni communities of Muslims. Since most scholars – with a few notable exceptions – have tended to focus exclusively on particular Muslim societies or groups, religious minorities have tended to be ignored or understudied. Recent attempts to move away from such exclusivism include a shift of attention to religious pluralism or approaches privileging co-existence and so-called interfaith dialogue. As research employing intersectionality has emphasized, however, minorities emerge along specific trajectories, and their relations and differences with majorities take shape in concrete encounters and are subject to complex elaborations over time. This symposium focuses in particular on the trajectories of religious minorities and their encounters with Muslims in Africa in the past and the present.
What is a religious minority? Which religious minorities are present among and alongside Muslims in Africa? How, when, and by whom are religious minorities recognized? How have questions of citizenship and legal rights within the secular state affected religious minorities? How do majority groups and religious minorities relate to each other and what is the nature of their encounters over time? Taking up these questions, the symposium aims to develop analytical tools for the study of religious minorities among Muslims in Africa to better apprehend their histories and experiences in comparative perspective. It is anticipated that the papers will be published in a special issue of a journal.
The symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for Global Islamic Studies, the Department of Religion, and the University of Florida International Center.
- Abdulkader Tayob, University of Cape Town
- Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University
- John Hanson, Indiana University
- Christopher Tounsel, Pennsylvania State University
Friday January 25 – 404 Grinter Hall
3:30-5:00 (Baraza) Abdulkader Tayob, University of Cape Town
“Minorities between Citizenship and Shariah: Muslims Engaging State and Religious Discourses”
Saturday January 26 – 404 Grinter Hall
8:30 – 9:00 Coffee & Tea
9:00-10:00 Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University
“NGO-ization as Legitimization: The Expansion of a Shi‘i Islamic Organization Within and Beyond Senegal”
10:00-11:00 John Hanson, Indiana University
“The Ahmadiyya in Ghana: aspirational Muslims in a global movement”
11:00-11:15 Coffee & Tea
11:15-12:15 Christopher Tounsel, Pennsylvania State University
“Arab Babylon, Black Zion: Racial Theology and the First Sudanese Civil War”
1:30-2:30: Plenary discussion, with UF moderator
Abdulkader Tayob is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Cape Town, and holds a National Research Foundation Chair in Islam, African Publics and Religious Values. He obtained his doctoral degree in 1989 from Temple University in the United States of America. He has worked and published on Islam in South Africa, Africa, the history of religions, and on the discourses of contemporary Islam. His current projects focus on Religious Studies and Islamic intellectual history, on religious education in South Africa, and on religion and ethics in societies and religious traditions.
Mara Leichtman is associate professor of Anthropology and Muslim Studies at Michigan State University. She is author of Shi‘i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal (Indiana 2015) and co-editor of a special issue of City and Society on Muslim Cosmopolitanism: Movement, Identity, and Contemporary Reconfigurations (2012) and the book New Perspectives on Islam in Senegal: Conversion, Migration, Wealth, Power, and Femininity (Palgrave Macmillan 2009). Her articles appeared in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Anthropological Quarterly, Contemporary Islam, Oxford Islamic Studies Online, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of Religion in Africa, and Ethnic and Racial Studies. Dr. Leichtman was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at American University of Kuwait (2016-2017) where she launched a new research project that examines Islamic humanitarianism in the Gulf directed to global economic development in Africa.
Christopher Tounsel is an Assistant Professor of History and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Tounsel earned his BA in History from Duke University and his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. His research concerns racial and religious imagination in Southern Sudan from 1898 to the present day. His work has been published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, the Journal of Africana Religions, and Social Sciences and Missions
John H. Hanson is a historian whose publications concern transformations in West African Muslim lives during the past two hundred years. His most recent book, The Ahmadiyya in the Gold Coast: Muslim Cosmopolitans in the British Empire (2017), analyzes the Ahmadiyya, a global Muslim movement with origins in South Asia, and how it came to be embraced by Africans in the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana) during the British colonial era. Previous work concerns the aftermath of Umar Tal’s nineteenth-century jihad as well as critical source analyses and translations of Arabic texts produced by West African Muslims. Hanson is editor-in-chief of Africa Today, co-editor of History in Africa, and director of the African Studies Program at Indiana University-Bloomington.