Department of Anthropology
311B Eaton Hall
Medford, MA 02155
Ph.D. University of London; B.A. University of Leicester
Violence, memory, and futurity; the anthropology of post-conflict;
children and youth; transitional justice; West Africa; Sierra Leone.
Tufts University FRAC Senior Research Semester (2013); Visiting Fellow,
Uppsala Forum for Peace, Democracy, and Justice, Uppsala University, Sweden (2012);
Rockefeller Foundation (for international conference at Bellagio, Italy, 2006);
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research and Writing Award (2004-05);
Fellowship, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University (2004-05);
Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship, United States Institute of Peace (2003-04);
finalist, Herskovitz Prize for the best scholarly work on Africa (2003);
Senior Fellowship, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University (1994-95);
Visiting Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities,
Northwestern University (1994-95);
Fellowship, Bunting Institute (now Radcliffe Institute, 1992-93);
Research Associate, Women's Studies in Religion Program, Harvard University (1992-93); Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research grant (1992).
Scholarship & Research
My current research concerns the work of memory during
post-conflict interventions. My book in progress, Disarming Justice,
Demobilizing Memory: Producing "Post-conflict" Life in Sierra Leone,
examines the emergence of new forms (and new contradictions) of
memory through engagement with Sierra Leone's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I locate the TRC's practice of
"truth telling"—the recounting of memories of violence—within the
liberal project of international peacebuilding. Through truth
telling, for example, individuals are encouraged to assume
responsibility for a national vision of progress toward
reconciliation, peace, and democracy. I also locate this memory work
within an opaque and unpredictable post-conflict economy. In Sierra
Leone, people sought to redirect the TRC's planned route from truth
telling to national peace through a path of labor and reciprocity.
This re-routing has a significance that extends beyond the clear
need for economic justice and reparations. It reframes transitional
justice within participants' struggles for "post-conflict"
lives—struggles that inflect not only the work of memory but also
the meanings of "justice" and "peace" long after transitional
justice mechanisms have been dismantled. This publicly engaged
scholarship builds upon my co-edited volume with Lars Waldorf and
Pierre Hazan, Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and
Priorities After Mass Violence (Stanford University Press, 2010).
Here, the editors and contributors examine the challenges that
"local" engagements pose to the transitional justice paradigm, and
critically address the discourse of locality in transitional justice
My current work also builds on my earlier exploration of memory in
Sierra Leone through the lens of the slave trade. In Memories of the
Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone
(University of Chicago Press, 2002), I examine the ways in which
layered historical experiences are made present in ritual ideas and
practices. Through the sedimentation of "palimpsest memories" from
different historical periods, each of which shapes the next,
memories of the slave trade are made to speak to present experiences
of marginality and extraction even as they are reworked by these.
Books and journal editing
2007-present. Editorial Board, International Journal of Transitional Justice
(Oxford University Press)
2010. Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities After Mass
Violence. Coedited with Lars Waldorf and Pierre Hazan. Stanford: Stanford
2002. Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra
Leone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
1994. Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis. London and
New York: Routledge (coedited with Charles Stewart)
1992. Dreaming, Religion and Society in Africa. Leiden: E.J. Brill (coedited with M.C. Jedrej)
Recent journal articles and book chapters
2014. "The TRC, the NGO, and the child:
Young people and post-conflict futures in Sierra Leone."
Social Anthropology 22 (3)
2013. "Futurizing Memory."
Provocation: The Politics of Memory.
Cultural Anthropology's "Field Notes" series, September 5.
2010. "Afterword: Violence and the Generation of Memory," in Nicolas Argenti and Katharina Schramm (eds.),
Remembering Violence: Anthropological
Perspectives on Intergenerational Transmission, pp. 243-53. Oxford and New
York: Berghahn Books.
2009. "The Production of 'Forgiveness': God,
Justice, and State Failure in Postwar Sierra Leone." In Kamari Maxine Clarke and
Mark Goodale (eds.), Justice in the
Mirror: Law, Power and the Making of History,
pp. 208-226. Cambridge and New York:
Cambridge University Press
2008. "Mami Wata and the Sierra Leone Diamonds:
Wealth and Enslavement in Men's Dreams and the State Economy." In Henry J.
Sacred Waters: Arts for Mami Wata and Other Divinities in Africa and the
Diaspora, pp. 19-25.
2007. "Memory Frictions: Localizing Truth and
Reconciliation in Sierra Leone."
International Journal of Transitional Justice 1:183-207
2007. "Displacing Violence: Making Pentecostal
Memory in Postwar Sierra Leone." Cultural
2005. "Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Lessons from Sierra
Leone." United States Institute of
Peace Special Report #130. Washington, DC: USIP Press.
2003: "Robert Kaplan and 'Juju Journalism' in Sierra Leone's Rebel War: The
Primitivizing of an African Conflict." In Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels (eds.),
Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment, pp.
81-102. Stanford: Stanford University Press