• 02/26/16- Middle Eastern Studies Expert Speaks to MSU

    Hosted by the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, Middle Eastern Studies expert Dr. Mara Leichtman will give a brown bag talk on her research in Senegal from 12 to 1 p.m. in Cobb, Room 100 on Feb. 26.

    Dr. Leichtman is an associate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University and concentrates her work in Lebanon, Senegal, and Kuwait. She recently published a book on the Lebanese Shi'i diaspora in Senegal. Dr. Leichtman is involved with Michigan State's interdisciplinary Muslim Studies Program.

    Cosmopolitanism and the Absence of Sectarianism among the Lebanese Diaspora in Senegal
    Little is known about the influential Lebanese diaspora in West Africa, where Lebanese began migrating in the late 19th century. This talk investigates the role of migration, cosmopolitanism, and governmentality in the transformation of religious identities of Lebanese in Senegal. Lebanese identity adapted over time from religious sectarianism to “secular” ethnicity, where religion ceased to divide Muslim and Christian migrants and instead became a shared element of Lebanese diasporic culture. Coming together as a multi-religious community helped counter discrimination first under French colonialism and later in the independent Senegalese state. More recently, the 2006 Lebanon War led to an increase in transnational sectarian pressures in Senegal. Lebanese strategically molded cosmopolitanism in ways that uniquely enabled the community in Dakar to assert political autochthony. Collectively, Lebanese Muslims and Christians worked to transition from being perceived as distinct – and foreign – minority religious communities to self-identifying as a united ethnic group of “Senegalese of Lebanese origin.”