Spirited Places: Jinns, Schooling, and the Burden of the Past in Niger – University of Copenhagen

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Spirited Places: Jinns, Schooling, and the Burden of the Past in Niger

Open lecture with Dr. Adeline Masquelier, Professor of Athropology at Tuhane University and Senior Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies 

In Niger the past decades have seen growing numbers of adolescent schoolgirls becoming possessed by spirits seeking redress for past harms. During exorcisms a narrative emerges, enfolding humans and spirits in a history of violence and disaffection that wreaks havoc with the linearity of time. In the last century, urbanization and other transformations accompanying Muslim reformists’ projects of purification have disrupted the spiritscape. When trees were cut to make space for schools, the spirits were dislodged from their homes. They now haunt the very venues whose emergence contributed to their displacement. Drawing on the incipient anthropology of intangibles, I explore the narratives of loss dramatized through the possession of schoolgirls, the wider claims about the past that these narratives authorize, and how these claims call into question a present (and a future) plagued with the past’s legacy. 

Adeline Masquelier is a Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University and currently a Senior Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. She has been conducting research and written on spirit possession, Islam, gender, youth, and medicine in Niger for over thirty years. She has authored numerous books and articles. Her more recent book, Women and Islamic Revival in a West African Town (Indiana, 2009) was awarded the 2010 Herskovits Award for best scholarly book on Africa and the 2012 Aidoo-Snyder prize for best scholarly book about African women. She has edited several books, including most recently, Critical Terms for the Study of Africa (Chicago, 2018), with Gaurav Desai. She recently completed a book on un(der)employed youth entitled Fada: Boredom and Belonging in Niger (Chicago, forthcoming) and is now writing a book on spirit possession in Nigerien schools.