Remaking Islam in African Portugal
Published by: Indiana University Press
212 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 26 b&w illus.
- Published: September 2020
- Published: September 2020
- Published: September 2020
- Published: September 2020
When Guinean Muslims leave their homeland, they encounter radically new versions of Islam and new approaches to religion more generally. In Remaking Islam in African Portugal, Michelle C. Johnson explores the religious lives of these migrants in the context of diaspora. Since Islam arrived in West Africa centuries ago, Muslims in this region have long conflated ethnicity and Islam, such that to be Mandinga or Fula is also to be Muslim. But as they increasingly encounter Muslims not from Africa, as well as other ways of being Muslim, they must question and revise their understanding of "proper" Muslim belief and practice. Many men, in particular, begin to separate African custom from global Islam. Johnson maintains that this cultural intersection is highly gendered as she shows how Guinean Muslim men in Lisbon—especially those who can read Arabic, have made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and attend Friday prayer at Lisbon's central mosque—aspire to be cosmopolitan Muslims. By contrast, Guinean women—many of whom never studied the Qur'an, do not read Arabic, and feel excluded from the mosque—remain more comfortably rooted in African custom. In response, these women have created a "culture club" as an alternative Muslim space where they can celebrate life course rituals and Muslim holidays on their own terms. Remaking Islam in African Portugal highlights what being Muslim means in urban Europe and how Guinean migrants' relationships to their ritual practices must change as they remake themselves and their religion.
1. Faith and Fieldwork in African Lisbon Part 1: Remaking Islam through Life Course Rituals 2. Name-Giving and Hand-Writing: Childhood Rituals and Embodying Islam 3. Making Mandinga, Making Muslims: Initiation, Circumcision, and Ritual Uncertainty 4. Distant Departures: Funerals, Post-Burial Sacrifices, and Rupturing Place and Identity Part 2: Remaking Islam through Rituals Beyond the Life Course 5. Reversals of Fortune: From Healing-Divining to Astrology 6. "Welcome Back from Mecca!": Reimagining the Hajj Epilogue: Faith, Food, and Fashion: Religion in Diaspora BibliographyIndex
Michelle C. Johnson's Remaking Islam in African Portugal presents a detailed, impressive, and eloquent ethnographic account of the global circulation of Muslims from Guinea-Bissau to Portugal and beyond. The book opens with a discussion of Mandinga Islamic rituals of initiation, instruction, and burial in the African context and their gradual diffusion abroad. The analysis of the impact of migrants' international contacts and influences from Mecca to Europe and beyond is revelatory and demonstrates how religious ideologies merge with local cultural understandings that transform with global movement and intensive contacts with competing versions of Islam. The lifestyles and livelihoods of Guinean migrants to Portugal morph over time and space in unexpected ways, blazing new trails and avenues for acculturation and adjustment across transnational borders and networks. This extensive and meticulous ethnographic and comparative study contributes significantly to the evidence about how new social relations and expressions of identity emerge in transnational religious communities. The book is a 'must read' for scholars of diasporic religious change and the global implantation of Islamic communities in a worldwide cultural and economic nexus.~Bennetta Jules-Rosette]]>,
Michelle Johnson's new book, Remaking Islam in African Portugal: Lisbon—Mecca—Bissau, is a must-read for everyone interested in the anthropology of Islam, migrations, Mandé peoples or the multicultural urban settings of contemporary European metropolis, boiling with a cultural mesh made of different layers of migrants, tourists and residents sharing the same space. Lisbon is such a city and at his core, in Rossio, migrants from Guinea-Bissau seat, chat and engage in commercial activities. Among them stand the Mandinga, the proud descendants of the first Islamic conquerors of the Senegambia region in West Africa back in the 15th century. Michelle Johnson has been studying Mandinga culture since the 1990s, and follows her friends from Guinea-Bissau to Lisbon in their struggle to reaffirm their ethnic identity and their idea of a global Islam. Being a Muslim in a migrant context and transmitting cultural values to the next generations is an enterprise expressed in numerous ritualized situations. These rituals, from naming a baby to the ultimate step in a Muslim life, the pilgrimage to Mecca, become the anchors of Johnson' descriptions of Mandinga challenges and expectations in a migrant context. This is a wonderful ethnography of the demands and motivations of Mandinga migrants in Lisbon written in the tradition of other great anthropologists—from Malinowski to Victor Turner to Paul Stoller—that, like Johnson, are also talented novelists. A book that is both a pleasure to read and a deep dive into Muslim Mandinga culture.~Clara Carvalho]]>,
This insightful ethnographic narrative about the religious challenges of Muslim women from Guinea-Bissau in Lisbon deals with religion, gender and generations in a globalised world. While rooted in profound insights about the homeland, it spells out how Guinean women renegotiate ethnicity and religious identity.~Jónína Einarsdóttir]]>,
Resonant throughout Remaking Islam in African Portugal, the ethnographer's deeply informed voice is the one we ourselves need to hear, as we, too, face unprecedented, once hardly imaginable predicaments of closeness and distancing in our troubled times. With the benefit of fieldwork over decades across town and country in Guinea-Bissau and in Portugal's capital, Lisbon, and speaking with great intimacy among immigrant Muslim diasporics, Michelle Johnson asks and answers the salient question. How do originally rural African diasporics in a European capital city navigate their unprecedented predicaments meaningfully through the controversial, tentative and yet, with great passion, intentionally faithful re-creation of Islam in the midst of complex, puzzling and unexpected cultural and social diversity? Outstanding, in my view as an ethnographer of divination, is Johnson's chapter on 'Reversals of Fortune,' in which she explores the surprising ambiguities and uncertainties in the quest for explanation of suffering and for healing with Muslim and non-Muslim consultants as diviners and healers.~Richard Werbner]]>, Divination's Grasp: African Encounters with the Almost Said
The gripping narratives and nuanced interpretation found in Michelle Johnson's Remaking Islam in African Portugal demonstrates the considerable intellectual fruits of taking a slower more narratively contoured approach to ethnographic research and writing. Twenty years in the making, this book presents important transnational perspectives on ritual practices, identity formation, and gender and generational relations. In so doing Remaking Islam in African Portugal not only reconfigures our knowledge of changing religious conceptions and practices in diasporic contexts, but also extends and refines our comprehension of the human condition. Given the depth of its analytical insights and the grace of its presentation, this is a work that will be read, savored, and debated for many years to come.~Paul Stoller]]>, Yaya's Story: The Quest for Well Being in the World
Michelle C. Johnson's extensively researched, and beautifully written, Remaking Islam in African Portugal is a valuable and significant contribution to the growing body of scholarship on Islam and the contemporary African diaspora in the United States and Europe. Her powerful and eloquently rendered ethnographic descriptions and provocative analysis of the ways in which Guinean Muslims remake ritual practices to grapple with dissonant visions of their taken-for-granted understanding of Islamic knowledge in a new context makes this book an important contribution and an essential read for those interested in the production of Islamic knowledge in diaspora settings in the 21st century.~JoAnn D'Alisera]]>,
Written with great sensitivity and reflexivity, Remaking Islam in African Portugal demonstrates that 'Religious processes are at the core of migratory practices and . . . migration is at the heart of religious issues.' This beautifully written book reveals how the tension between the umma of global Islam and the embodied Islamic practices of specific Mandinga and Fula ethnicities plays out in a proliferation of 'ethnic' mosques in Lisbon and increasing collaboration between mosques and cultural clubs. In new diasporic sites, Guinean men and women use food, naming, mobile phones, and lifecycle rituals to rethink the variable relationships among religion and personhood for men and women, boys and girls in Lisbon and its exburbs. This book is a refreshing welcome addition to scholarly conversations on African diasporas and struggles over belonging.~Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg]]>,