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Anthropology and Religion: ‘Religious Shoppers’ and the emergence of Chrislam in Lagos

Ahmed Ayed

photo of Marloes Janson

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Anthropology and Religion: ‘Religious Shoppers’ and the emergence of Chrislam in Lagos

About Prof. Marloes Janson and this TKS episode:

In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, we meet Marloes Janson, a Professor of West African Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, and Associate Director of Research at SOAS University of London. Marloes tells us how her interest in anthropology and religion developed, discussing her truly fascinating work that looks at Chrislam in Lagos, Nigeria. Chrislam is a religious movement that fuses Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices. Listen to and watch Marloes explain how the term ‘religious shoppers’ emerged from her participants, exploring what this looks like as people navigate their everyday lives.

 

A brief synopsis:

Marloes begins by telling Hussain how she began studying anthropology and religion in The Gambia, where she focussed on youth, gender, popular cultures, and Islam. She has written a book, called ‘Islam, Youth, and Modernity in The Gambia’, where she describes transnational Islamic missionary movements. Prof. Janson was interested in finding out what happens when a movement travels, and during her research discovered how women in particular have been given new opportunities to express their Muslim identity. She also talks about ‘born again Muslims’ who have been influenced by a group of Chrislam preachers, coming from Lagos, which redirected her study towards Nigeria.

In 2010, Prof. Janson embarked on a long and extensive research project, looking at a movement that combines elements of Christianity and Islam, known as Chrislam. She explains why this was something that intrigued her, and brought up a plethora of questions that made her want to carry out ethnographic research in the area:

Initially, I found myself somewhat uneasy with a movement such as Chrislam because the way we are raised we see religious traditions as mutually exclusive. So initially I didn’t know how to make sense of this movement.

Prof. Marloes Janson

 

Multi faith settings:

Marloes and Hussain continue to discuss how while we’re raised to believe different religions cannot be mixed in theory, Nigeria provides an example of how religion is lived out in a multi faith setting where you have extended families composed of Muslims, Christians, and African traditional religions. Multi faith settings become explicit in the way Muslims and Christians co-exist in and take part in each others religious festivities and traditions.

Prof. Janson uses this as a springboard to critique the way we study religion. She says that we need to rethink the study of religion to be able to account for making sense of everyday phenomena in spaces of religious plurality.

We, as scholars of religion, have to re think the way we’ve studied religion for a long time. This division of labour, whereby one scholar studies Islam, a second Christianity, and a third one African traditional religion, is not very helpful if we want to get a better understanding of these practices of religious plurality.

Prof. Marloes Janson

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In her fourth upcoming book, Prof. Janson is able to provide a real insight into everyday life shaped by religious plurality, through an impressive number of ethnographies. Whilst discussing Chrislam, she also writes about Nasfat, one of the fastest-growing Muslim organisations in Nigeria.

Marloes also talks about her research participants, who referred to themselves as ‘religious shoppers’. Based on her interviews with them, it emerged that different religions have their own powers and by combining them, one can be blessed multiple times. Listen to hear more about the cumulative power of prayers and the opportunity they provide in being able to gain power when religions intertwine.

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episdoe, Prof. Janson articulates how her interests drew her towards anthropology from an early age, and how she focused on studying people, society and different cultures. She makes the case for rethinking how we study religion to be able to truly understand the everyday and the ways in which religion shapes, intersects, and changes it.

 

Here is the link to her newest book.

Here is Marloes’ and Akintunde Akinleye’s The Spiritual Highway exhibition catalogue. For the exhibition, see also

You can also explore the special issue of the journal Africa that Marloes co-edited with Birgit Meyer on Christian-Muslim relations in Africa here.

 

Please help us keep TKS alive by donating to our Patreon

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