Current Institutional Affiliation
Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Bowdoin College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Cultural Anthropology, Duke University
Piety in Progress: Video Filmmaking and Religious Encounter in Bénin

This research explores collaborative media production in Bénin as religious encounter between Yorùbá-speaking Béninois and Nigerian video filmmakers. Béninois media professionals show ambivalence toward their Nigerian counterparts: they invite these filmmakers to Bénin to serve as experts and mentors, but they express concerns that their Nigerian guests carry with them attitudes toward religion and religious interaction that have been steeped in a national climate of mounting inter-religious tensions and violence. This study thus seeks to determine how the production of religious media becomes a forum to debate and establish norms of community and religious practice for these filmmakers, as well as for the ad hoc audiences who come to watch films being made. As an apprentice with a filmmaking troupe and a large filmmaking NGO in Pobè, Bénin, I will interview filmmakers and spectators from both sides of the Bénin–Nigeria border, participate in all stages of the filmmaking process, and attend religious services and festivals with filmmakers and other members of the community. In so doing, I will determine the roles that national identity, religious affiliation, and professional prestige play in negotiations over religious attitudes and conceptions of community. I also will seek to determine how an open production style shapes the public that can participate in conversations about religious representation, iconography, and aesthetics in media. Firsthand participation and broader analysis of the media landscape will enable me to determine the link between religious deliberation on film sets and the religious attitudes and practices of the participants.