Elisha P. Renne
Fellow: Awarded 2012
Field of Study: African Studies
Competition: US & Canada
Elisha P. Renne is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation research focused on marriage practices, textile production, and gender relations in southwestern Nigeria (Ph.D., Anthropology, New York University, 1990) and formed the basis for her first book, Cloth That Does Not Die: The Meaning of Cloth in Bunu Social Life (1995). She subsequently collaborated as a postdoctoral fellow with demographers at the Australian National University, Canberra, on a research project studying marriage, fertility change, and reproductive health in southwestern Nigeria, with her work published in the book Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town (2003). She has also taught at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, as a Fulbright Scholar, and at Princeton University, where she was a lecturer and Mellon Research Fellow, before joining the University of Michigan faculty in 1998. At Michigan, her research has taken a medical anthropological turn (The Politics of Polio in Northern Nigeria, 2010) and she has been involved in interdisciplinary collaborative work with faculty in the UM School of Public Health. She has also continued research on the anthropology of cloth—its meanings, uses, production, and history—in Nigeria. The present project brings together her earlier work on textile technology, trade, and dress in Hausa-Fulani social life with an anthropological-historical analysis of cloth used as veils and turbans by Muslim women and men in relation to Islamic reform movements, from the beginning of the ninetheenth-century Sokoto Caliphate to the present day in northern Nigeria. The material expression of religious reform reflects prevailing technologies and relations of production as well as the particular material forms that are produced, i.e., what sorts of textiles are available for the expression of new beliefs and practice and how the meanings associated with new styles of textiles are constructed.