Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa

Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa

Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal
Mara A. Leichtman
Distribution: World
Publication date: 08/27/2015
Format: Paperback 19 b&w illus., 4 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01601-0
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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

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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

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