Sara Katz

  • Fellowship year:2019-2020
  • University: Univeristy of Michigan
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Africa
  • Dissertation Title: Mobilizing the Hajj in Southwest Nigeria: Pilgrims, Technologies, and State Regulation, 1914-1980
  • My dissertation utilizes archival and ethnographic methods to trace the significance of the hajj—the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca—at the personal, state and global scale, primarily from the perspective of Southwest Nigeria, a region of Nigeria relatively ignored by Islamic studies. It particularly pays attention to debates over the hajj in the press, practices of prestige, and the regulatory involvement by the British colonial state and later the independent Nigerian government. This work is important in Islamic studies, which has historically relegated sub-Saharan Africa to the periphery and framed Islamic practice in Africa as isolated, reifying colonial logics that glossed Islam in Africa as "primitive."
    In the twentieth century, concerns particular to modern states—national borders, citizenship, and scope of welfare services—have often stood at odds with pilgrims' transnational mobility and their identification with a non-territorial ummah (Islamic community of believers). By tracing the tension between pilgrim mobility and state regulations, I am able to show that policies of population management are always in dialogue with non-elite actors. By moving across scale the dissertation demonstrates that the hajj—as an international journey that all Muslims aspire to—leads to entanglements across regional, ethnic, national, and even religious lines in an interfaith nation like Nigeria.