Research

Overview

I am an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. This site is dedicated to my ongoing research. I also have an official University of Alberta web page and an Academia.edu page with links to my publications. Some of my photos can be found on Flickr.

I research Islam—especially Sufi (mystical) Islam—in contemporary West Africa and globally. Some of the themes my research addresses include the performance of religious authority, forms of knowledge and experience, gender, and religious expressive performance (such as chant and music). I am particularly interested in how new or adapted performances of religious authority succeed or fail in establishing themselves as embodying a timeless tradition. For example, I have looked at how women have come to exercise religious authority in new ways, how Hip Hop/rap music has established itself for many believers as a legitimate form of religious expression, and why other performance genres have found less acceptance.

The Fayḍa Tijāniyya

Since 2001, my field research has primarily examined a global Islamic movement, the Fayḍah Tijāniyya, or the spiritual lineage of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (or Ñas) within the Tijani Sufi order. In his home country of Senegal, Shaykh Ibrāhīm is better known to his disciples as “Baay” (“Father” in the Wolof language of Senegal), and his followers often call themselves “Taalibe Baay” (“Disciples of Baay”).

Geographically, my focus has primarily been the Fayḍa Tijāniyya’s place of origin, Senegal. I have also conducted research among members of the movement in Mauritania, other West African countries, the United States, Egypt, and the United Kingdom.

Current Research Projects

Currently, my research and writing most actively focuses on two primary areas:

Glass painting of Shaykh Ibrahim (Baay) Niasse, flanked by Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani and the Prophet Muhammad. (See my photo archive for more photos.)

Time for Friday prayer, in front of the Medina Baay Mosque, Kaolack, photographed in 2001.