A Disenchanted Landscape? Jinn, Schoolgirls, and the Demonization of the Past in Niger
- Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 9, Number 2, 2020
- pp. 243-266
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In this article, I explore the possession of schoolgirls by spirits based on ethnographic research conducted in the district of Dogondoutchi, Niger. Besides pointing to the struggles girls face in a country where women’s education remains controversial, possession brings attention to a past Muslim religious authorities have tried to silence. When trees were cut to make space for schools, their spiritual occupants were uprooted. Far from vanishing, however, the displaced spirits now haunt the very venues whose emergence contributed to their displacement. I consider how the irruption of spirits in schools highlights the fraught relation between Islam and animism, suggesting how Islam and animism exist in and through each other. Weber wrote how modern times were about the disenchantment of the world, yet he knew gods and spirits do not completely disappear. It is this predicament and the conundrums it gives rise to that the attacks on Nigerien schoolgirls exemplify.