Islamic Africa and African Islam: Teaching the lived forms of a religious tradition

Americans tend to associate Islam with the Middle East, but in fact far more Muslims live outside that area than within it. Nearly 100 million Muslims live in Nigeria alone, more than the population of Egypt and more than the population of all the Arabian states combined. Part of why this doesn't match our imagination of Islam is that we've come to think of Islam in normative terms, a certain package of cultural practices distinct from complex religious beliefs or individual faith. And those Muslim cultures that most people in the US are exposed to are those of the Arabic- and Persian-speaking world. We have come to mistake culture for religion and then extrapolated the cultures of one region across a population of nearly 2 billion. This workshop helps provide resources for thinking about presenting Islam as it is experienced and lived in one somewhat unfamiliar context: sub-Saharan Africa. We'll discuss art, music, family organization, politics, trade, and day-to-day piety, all from a historical perspective. The goal will be to help you confront stereotypes about Islam in ways that are grounded in factual information while giving you some interpretive frameworks to help organize information on this vast topic. I'll recommend some novels, films, and primary sources that you can share with students.