I would like to put together a panel for the 2002 AHA (San Francisco) around the question of oral history and the collection of evidence for histories of religious communities and individuals for whom religion and conversion are central elements of identity and self-understanding. What kinds of effects do religious beliefs have on the structure of narratives, on understandings of agency and causation, and on the relationship of subjects and researchers? How can secular scholars respect different modes of historical narrative and alternative understandings of causation while at the same time constructing critical histories? What kinds of ethical, methodological, and epistemological problems emerge in this kind of research and writing encounter?
My own current work is on a minority Christian community in majority Muslim Maradi, Niger (West Africa) with a strong gender focus and an interest in problems of "development." I would love to be able to put together a panel that disrupted conventional area studies boundaries.
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