Get access

Religion, Religiousness, and Narrative: Decoding Women's Practices in Senegalese Islamic Reform


  • Acknowledgments: I sincerely appreciate the insightful suggestions of Drs. Loren Lybarger and Mary Ellen Konieczny on drafts of this article, as well as Dr. Kelly Chong, Dr. Mary Ellen Konieczny, and Dr. Loren Lybarger for organizing the conference, “Comparing Religions: On Theory and Method /A Conference in Honor of Martin Riesebrodt.” I am grateful to Dr. Martin Riesebrodt for his excellent teaching, guidance, and unwavering support over many years.

  • Research funding for this article was provided by Fulbright IIE, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Princeton University's Institute for the Transregional Study of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, Ramapo College Separately Budgeted Research Award, and the Ramapo College Foundation.

Erin Augis, Sociology Department, Ramapo College of New Jersey, 505 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430. E-mail:


Martin Riesebrodt argues that his theory of religion can help explain religion's enduring power in the contemporary globalizing and secularizing world. Although he emphasizes the necessity of objective categories for theorizing religion's purpose, adherents’ narratives about their religious practices reveal lived relationships between ideal-typical liturgical texts (which help comprise religion) and their appropriations of them for navigating rapidly changing social contexts (religiousness). The validity of Riesebrodt's approach for explaining religion in empirical settings is demonstrated by using ethnographic interviews of Muslim reformist women in Dakar, Senegal. These female adherents’ discourses on the practices of veiling, prayer, and preaching the uniqueness of God highlight the ways religion's directives operate in a dialectical relationship with a religiousness that encompasses their dual efforts to achieve closeness to God and overtly critique other Muslim groups, contemporary urban life, and the state.