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Traveling Masculinities: Incandescent Communications, the Bahá’í Faith, and Transcontinental Networks in Africa
October 31, 2019 @ 12:20 pm - 1:20 pm
A lecture featuring Jacqueline-Bethel Mougoué, Assistant Professor in the Department of African Cultural Studies
Mougoué’s second book project examines how religious identities and extensive transcontinental networks, shaped the performance of manhood and cultural identities from the 1950s to the 1980s when young men in Cameroon converted to Bahá’í—a religion founded in Iran that teaches the unity of all religions and equality of all people (e.g., gender and racial equality). Young men between the ages of 13 and 26 in particular in Africa found conversion to Bahá’í an appealing alternative to the Christian churches that marginalized them based on race. Converts forcibly occupied Christian churches in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana and converted them to Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Through conversion, young men found jobs as Bahá’í missionaries, converting hundreds, in some places thousands, of Africans throughout West African regions. As the young men traveled westward via motorcars, trains, bicycles, small planes and settled into their assigned regions in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire, they left trails of telegrams, postcards, and handmade birthday cards that they sent to family and friends throughout the continent and around the world. These tools of communication illustrate how young African men facilitated networks across the continent and across the Persian Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. In examining these everyday artifacts of communication, we learn much about how young African men found new ways to (re)claim social and religious power, facilitate beneficial networks, and, ultimately, reshape ideas about manhood and cultural identities.