Public Spaces/Muslim Places: Locating Sierra Leonean Muslim Identity in Washington, D.C.

In: African Diaspora
JoAnn D’Alisera University of Arkansas, Department of Anthropology 330 Old Main, Fayetteville, AR 72701 USA, Email:

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In this paper I explore the way in which Muslim space is produced in public venues to become a tangible medium through which Sierra Leonean Muslims living in Washington, D.C. reflect upon the harmonies and tensions of life in the city. I ask how secular sites such as work spaces, street corners and sidewalks are remade by a multiplicity of sanctifying patterns of action that are performed in conscious tension with the way American public spaces are normally perceived. I illustrate the complex ways that spatial practices that emplace the sacred onto mundane sites creates complex social fields in which Sierra Leoneans negotiate the social relations and practical knowledge of their world. In so doing, I show that sacred meaning and significance can coalesce in any place that becomes a site for intensive religious interpretation and thus essential locations of self-reflection and self-constitution in cities.

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