Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa

Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa

Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal
Mara A. Leichtman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/27/2015
Format: Hardback 19 b&w illus., 4 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01599-0
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Mara A. Leichtman offers an in-depth study of Shi‘i Islam in two very different communities in Senegal: the well-established Lebanese diaspora and Senegalese "converts" from Sunni to Shi‘i Islam of recent decades. Sharing a minority religious status in a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, each group is cosmopolitan in its own way. Leichtman provides new insights into the everyday lives of Shi‘i Muslims in Africa and the dynamics of local and global Islam. She explores the influence of Hizbullah and Islamic reformist movements, and offers a corrective to prevailing views of Sunni-Shi‘i hostility, demonstrating that religious coexistence is possible in a context such as Senegal.

Author Bio

Mara A. Leichtman is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Muslim Studies at Michigan State University. She is editor (with Mamadou Diouf) of New Perspectives on Islam in Senegal: Conversion, Migration, Wealth, Power, and Femininity.


“Takes the bold step of considering Lebanese and African Shi’a in Senegal together in the same volume, and refusing to admit the intellectual segregation of different racial communities in the same country by giving in to the temptation to write two separate, shorter books. . . . A significant contribution.”
 — Robert Launay, author of Beyond the Stream: Islam & Society In A West African Town

“In popular and media portrayals of Islam, images of fundamentalism and global terrorism obscure more everyday understandings of the varied lives of Muslims around the world. Mara Leichtman's engaging book on Shi'ism in Senegal is a refreshing antidote.”
 — American Ethnologist

“This book provides an original and timely analysis of the dynamics of religion and race in transnational migration. . . . Leichtman’s book is sure to make an impact on African studies but should be read by non- Africanists as well.

 — Journal of West African History

“This book is highly recommended for anyone with interest in African and Middle Eastern Affairs, Islam and Religious Studies, and Peace Studies. ”
 — African Studies Quarterly

“[Leichtman's] volume is a theoretically packed, historically grounded and ethnographically rich exploration into minority religious communities and their migrations. ”
 — Journal of Modern African Studies

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Table of Contents

Preface: Islam and Politics
Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Locating Cosmopolitan Shi‘i Islamic Movements in Senegal
Part I. The Making of a Lebanese Community in Senegal
Introduction to Part I.
1. French Colonial Manipulation and Lebanese Survival
2. Senegalese Independence and the Question of Belonging
3. Shi‘i Islam Comes to Town: A Biography of Shaykh al-Zayn
4. Bringing Lebanese "Back" to Shi‘i Islam
Part II. Senegalese Conversion to Shi‘i Islam
5. The Vernacularization of Shi‘i Islam: Competition and Conflict
6. Migrating from One’s Parents’ Traditions: Narrating Conversion Experiences
Interlude: ‘Umar: Converting to an "Intellectual Islam"
7. The Creation of a Senegalese Shi‘i Islam
Coda: On Shi‘i Islam, Anthropology, and Cosmopolitanism