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Dr. Chembea Suleiman Athuman

Suleiman Dr. Chembea Suleiman Athuman

Short Bio

Chembea Suleiman Athuman holds a PhD in Islamic studies from the University of Bayreuth, Germany; a Master of Arts in Religion and a Bachelor of Education (Arts), both from Moi University, Kenya. He teaches Religion at Bomet University College where he also Heads the Department of Arts, Governance and Communication Studies. His research interests lay in the interface between Awqaf and Islamic philanthropy; on Muslim-Christian relations; on Islamic knowledge production and dissemination, and Religious extremism. Dr. Chembea held the position of Visiting Research Fellow at the African Studies Center, (ASC), Leiden, University of Netherlands in 2019 as well as the Early Career Researcher of Islam in Africa, a mentorship program of the Institute of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA), Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois since 2019. He is a DAAD alumnus and currently a member of the Research Project Islamic Popular Culture and Public Performance Practices: The Production, Transmission of Religious Knowledge and Creation of Cultural Identity in Africa, funded by the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth, Germany.  

Selected Publications

  • Chembea, S. (2020). “Between Charity and Financing ‘Terror’: The Dilemma of Muslim Charitable Organizations in Kenya”. In Muslim Faith Based Organizations and Social Welfare in Africa, ed. H. Weiss. pp.143-168. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Chembea, S. (coming soon). The Islamophobic Agenda: An Analysis of Legal and Media Representation of ‘Religious’ Violence and Radicalization in East Africa since the 2000s. In The Palgrave Handbook of Religion, Peacebuilding and Development in Africa. ed. Kilonzo S.; Chitando E. and Tarusarira, J.
  • Chembea, S. (coming soon). Feminization of Qasidah? Religiosity, Knowledge Production and Religious Economy in Muslim Zanzibar”. Journal of Religion in Africa (special Issue).
  • Chembea, S. (coming soon). “FBO-nization and Mediatization of Fitri: Muslim Youths and Zakat Practices during the Post 9/11 Period in Kenya”. Journal of Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society, (Special Issue), Indiana University, USA.


Project Description

Poetry (Qasidah) and Women’s Bodies in the Creation, Dissemination of Islamic Knowledge and Cultural Identity in Zanzibar

The study examines how active involvement of women in Islamic poetry (qasidah) helps (de-)construct traditional dynamics in the production and dissemination of Islamic knowledge and creation of cultural identity(-ies) along the East African coast. While Islamic knowledge production and dissemination was largely associated with male ulama (clerical class) in textual and religious spaces, advancement of media technology has caused a shift where qasidah not only support religious themes but also provide variations in the creation and transmission of knowledge and religious community identity. This shift, though rapidly gaining currency across Muslim communities, is explored within the microcosm of Zanzibar to understand how performance of poetry presents an avenue through which Muslim women engage with religious discourses in the region. The study specifically investigates: (i) How women challenge the boundaries of the predominantly patriarchal Zanzibar community within the context of female agency in Muslim public spaces through qasidah; and (ii) The role of gender and Kiswahili in the production and transmission of religious poetry and how this performance practice helps create cultural identity(-ies) and sense of belonging in the Muslim Zanzibar community

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