Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Alberta

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2003
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Yale University
Divine Knowledge and an Islamic Moral Order: The Disciples of Baay Niass in Senegal

My project rethinks the relationships between Islam and officially liberal-democratic governmental regimes, arguing that to understand these relationships adequately we must take seriously the role of specific religious practices in shaping selfhood, agency, and moral order. I will examine the ritual production of "divine knowledge" among the Taalibe Baay, disciples of Baay Niass in Senegal, inquiring into how this knowledge contributes to the project of a moral order that challenges the universality of dominant discourses and institutions of modernity. I will focus my research on the production of this moral order at three levels: (1) micro-practices of religious self-discipline in divine knowledge, (2) local religious associations where this knowledge is cultivated and channeled toward group projects, and (3) the migrations and relations through which imaginations and practices of a larger Taalibe Baay community and moral order emerge. At each level, I will relate these practices to disciples' political and economic activities. This project aims to refocus attention in studies of Islamic groups away from primarily instrumental or symbolic approaches to religious practice toward an approach that takes into account the processes through which moral selves and normative bases of moral order are constituted.