Department of social anthropology seminar with Gracia Clark

The Department of Social Anthropology has the pleasure to invite you to this week's seminar. Dr. Gracia Clark from the Anthropology Department, Indiana University, will present the following paper:

Representing Everyday Islam in a West African City on the Web


Dozens of devout Muslim laymen and women from Kumasi, Ghana volunteered to record video interviews for a website on West African Islam, aimed at high school and small college students and teachers in the United States. They endorsed its explicit purpose, dispelling stereotypes about Islam, because they were well aware that, in their words, people in the United States thought that all Muslims were Arabs and terrorists and hated the US. Although most of them had just met the researcher the day or week of the interview, this agenda resonated strongly enough that they shared personal stories of growing up Muslim in a majority Christian country and trying to prosper while remaining a good Muslim. Many addressed the imagined US public directly through the camera, explaining the most important values in Islam and the phenomenon of suicidal violence as they understood them. This overlapping agenda raises different ethical issues than more conventional ethnographic work. Questions of reciprocity, confidentiality and representation emerge even more strongly, but they take some new forms. The researcher will discuss the new obligations and responsibilities created, in relation to specific intentions and expectations on each side that might be explicit or implicit.

Dr. Gracia Clark, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, has studied Kumasi Central Market in Ghana, West Africa since 1978. Her thesis research in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge highlighted the regional dominance of this urban daily market, and the relations of credit, leadership and domestic work that kept its 20,000 traders in their stalls. She consulted for the ILO and UNIFEM for several years before teaching at UW Parkside and many classes at U Michigan, Ann Arbor, Subsequent fieldwork addressed development issues of food security and trade liberalization and lastly recorded life stories from older traders. A volume of life stories titled African Market Women (IUP 2010) complements her 1994 book Onions are My Husband. Her web gallery in the site features video interviews with lay Muslims in Kumasi about Islamic values and interfaith relations. A current website project Virtual Kumasi Central Market seeks to recreate the fieldwork experience by structuring her original materials interactively so that visitors’ questions shape what they learn.


All are welcome!