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Lecture, Lecture series

Islam in a Zongo. Muslim Lifeworlds in Asante, Ghana

Book presentation by Benedikt Pontzen (affiliated research fellow at ZMO)

Moderation: Kai Kresse (ZMO)

Introductory Remarks: Benjamin Soares (University of Florida), co-editor of the International African Library book series at Cambridge University Press


Robert Launay is Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University, where he has been a member of ISITA (Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa) since its founding in 2000. He has conducted extensive field work among Muslim minorities in Korhogo, in the north of Côte d’Ivoire. He has published two books and numerous articles based on his research there, and has also published about the early history of anthropology in early modern Europe. He is currently working on a book reexamining the emergence of piety movements in comparative context in West Africa and beyond.

Adeline Masquelier is Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University. She has conducted research in Niger for over thirty years on religion, gender, health, and youth cultures. She has authored three books, including Women and Islamic Revival in a West African Town (Indiana University Press, 2009) which received the 2010 Herskovits Award for best scholarly book on Africa and the 2012 Aidoo-Snyder prize for best scholarly book about African women. She is the editor of three books, including Critical Terms for the Study of Africa (coedited with Gaurav Desai, University of Chicago Press, 2018). At the intersection of religion, ecology, and education, the book she is currently writing tells the story of Nigerien schools that are haunted by painful pasts as much as by imagined futures.

Yunus Dumbe (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies in Religious Studies Department, College of Humanities and Social Sciences of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. He has a fellow at several research centres. He was Eric Abraham Fellow (2008-2009) and affiliated at the Centre for Contemporary Islam (CCI) in the Religious Studies Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa. He was postdoctoral scholar (2011-2013), and affiliated to the School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. In 2016, he was nominated for the Thirteenth Cadbury Fellowship, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Since 2018 Dr. Dumbe has been a fellow at Abo Akademi University undertaking research on Minorities in Social Sciences and Humanities. His research interests include Muslim movements and Islamic revival in Sub-Saharan Africa, young Muslims and religious radicalization among others. He is recently working on a monograph: "Salafi Revival and Transformation of Muslim Identities in postcolonial Ghana".

Book Abstract:

Zongos, wards in West Africa populated by traders and migrants from the northern savannahs and the Sahel, are a common sight in Ghana's Asante region where the people of these wards represent a dual-minority as both foreigners and Muslims in a largely Christian area, facing marginalisation as a result. Islam provides the people of the zongos with a common ground and shared values, becoming central to their identity and to their shared sense of community. This detailed account of Islamic lifeworlds highlights the irreducible diversity and complexity of 'everyday' lived religion among Muslims in a zongo community. Benedikt Pontzen traces the history of Muslim presence in the region and analyses three Islamic phenomena encountered in its zongos in detail: Islamic prayer practices, the authorisation of Islamic knowledge, and ardently contested divination and healing practices. Drawing on empirical and archival research, oral histories, and academic studies, he demonstrates how Islam is inextricably bound up with the diverse ways in which Muslims live it.

Benedikt Pontzen is an anthropologist and writer who has been carrying out ethnographic and historiographic research in Asante since the early 2000s. Besides his research on Islam, he also works on so-called 'African Traditional Religions', religious encounters, and lived religious diversity in the region. His work has been published in journals, including Africa and the Journal of Religion in Africa, and in edited volumes.

This book presentation is organised in cooperation with the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies.

The publisher Cambridge University Press kindly provided a discount code for this event. Please enter IIAZ2021 when purchasing the book from their website: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/islam-in-a-zongo/F26C9A3689B0DF280C25E4FB8125321B.

The event will be held via Zoom. Please register at registration@zmo.de.

This event is part of the lecture series:
Book presentation series 2020/21
New Releases at ZMO