History | Muslim Identities in Africa
H695 | 23389 | Hanson

A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to graduates only

Contemporary Muslim discourses about ritual affairs and beliefs,
politics and the application of "sharia" (interpretations of ‘Muslim
law’), are recent expressions of long-standing concerns about
identity, community and Islam’s place in the world. In sub-Saharan
Africa, Muslims increasingly have come to engage in these religious
debates, conscious of the heritage of Islam in the region and
mindful of the social transformations associated with European
colonial rule and several decades of independence. In this course,
we read broadly in the literature on Muslim communities in sub-
Saharan Africa, focusing particularly on constructions of identity
and debates about religion and society during the last hundred
years. Students discuss readings in class, write several review
essays, and produce a short paper on a topic related to the themes
of this course.  No prerequisites.

We begin by reflecting on the utility and limitations of ‘identity’
as an analytical concept (reading Rogers Brubaker and Frederick
Cooper, ‘Beyond “Identity,”’ Theory and Society 29.1 (2000)) We
continue by reflecting on the sweep of Muslim history in sub-Saharan
Africa (reading David Robinson, "Muslim Societies in African
History"(2004) and my essay on sub-Saharan Africa during the
twentieth century in the "New Cambridge History of
Islam"(forthcoming)). We spend the rest of the semester focused on
the last hundred years (reading works in both history and
anthropology, such as Muhammad Sani Umar, "Islam and Colonialism:
Intellectual Responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British
Colonial Rule" (2005) and Benjamin Soares, "Islam and the Prayer
Economy: History and Authority in a Malian Town" (2005)).