The Problem of “Ninjas” and “Bandits”: Ethnographic Encounters with Reformist Muslim Women in Guinea

Speaker / Presenter: 

Dr. Susanna Fioratta - Department of Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College

Sufi Islam has long predominated in Guinea’s Fouta Djallon highlands, but Islamic reform movements—often labeled “Wahhabi” by their detractors—have attracted adherents in some areas. Though both male and female participants have been subject to critique by non-reformists, Fouta Djallon women who adopt reformist practices have been particularly censured for stepping beyond the bounds of feminine propriety. Reformist women who wear veils or burkas are derisively referred to as “ninjas” and “bandits,” while those who attend Arabic language and Koranic reading classes are widely regarded with suspicion. This lecture examines the appearances and practices of women belonging to a controversial religious movement, explores how these women engage and embody the limits of gender roles, and asks how a focus on the experiences of aberrant women can challenge assumptions about both gender and ethnographic practice. 

Co-sponsors: Africana Studies, Center for Global Islamic Studies, Global Studies, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.