SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor Marloes Janson

MA, PhD (Leiden University); SFHEA
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Marloes Janson
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Associate Director of Research (Research Ethics & Researcher Development), SOAS

Doctoral School Management Group


Centre of African Studies

Management Committee Member

Professor Marloes Janson
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4345
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Wednesdays 10am-12pm, see bio for details


Office Hours

MARLOES: Wednesdays 10am-12pm, in person and online, book your appointment.

NORA: Fridays 1.30-2.30pm, in person and online, book your appointment.

My research is at the intersection of anthropology and religion. West Africa (the Gambia, Senegal and Nigeria) are my ethnographic areas of specialization. I have conducted ethnographic research in the Gambia since 1996 on various research projects relating to popular culture, oral history, Islamic reform, gender and youth. In 2010 I switched my research field to Lagos, Nigeria, where I am exploring the emergence of Chrislam, a religious movement that fuses Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices. My research interests are reflected in my teaching. Before joining SOAS in 2012, I have been a researcher at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin.


Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Ayisha Ahmed - Colonial Reverberations? Understanding Colonial Continuities in the Contemporary Ghanaian Education System: A Multi-Sited Approach.
  • Niamh Collard - Crafting Livelihoods, Negotiating Challenges and Realising Opportunities: An Ethnography of Life, Learning and Work amongst Young Ghanaian Weavers
  • Carrie Benjamin - ‘In Defence of the Neighbourhood’: Narrating Place, Belonging, and Gentrification in the Goutte d’Or
  • Matthew Fish - Contested Spaces in the Capital: Squatting, Place and Subjectvity


Since 1996 I have been conducting ethnographic research in the Gambia, West Africa. During my PhD research I lived with the griottes, female bards, of a Mandinka community in eastern Gambia for more than a year and was trained by them as an apprentice. From this perspective I have described how the penetration of capitalism and changes in spatial organization in a semi-urban town, resulting in economic pressure on women, transformed the bardic profession.

My later research focused on the relationship between local traditions and religious reform in the Gambia and Senegal. My previous research explored the expansion of the Tabligh Jamaʻat, a transnational Islamic missionary movement that originated in India, and its impact in the Gambia. The Jamaʻat offers Gambian youth, women in particular, new opportunities to express their religious identity. This research resulted in the monograph Young, Modern and Muslim: The Tablighi Jamaʻat in the Gambia (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which explores how Gambian youth have incorporated the South Asian Tablighi ideology into their daily lives and adapted it to the local context in which they operate. My monograph, which was published in paperback in 2017, has been awarded the RAI Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology. In 2016 my monograph was endorsed by best-selling novelist Zadie Smith as she was writing her novel Swing Time, which is partly situated in the Gambia.

In 2010 I switched my research field from the smallest country in Africa – the Gambia – to the biggest one – Nigeria – to investigate the emergence of Chrislam, a set of religious movements mixing Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices. Nigeria’s former capital Lagos, characterised by rapid population growth, eroding socio-economic structures, scarcity of resources, corruption and increasing violence between Christians and Muslims, proved to be a challenging avenue for exploring the spiritual and pragmatic means Chrislam provides its worshippers to shape their daily lives in interaction with their urban environment. In a nutshell, my forthcoming monograph argues that in order to fully understand how religion is professed in a multi-faith setting such as Lagos, we must tackle the compartmentalization of the study of religion by taking religious pluralism as starting point.

I have curated the exhibition The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in megacity Lagos, with photographs taken by World Press Photo winner Akintunde Akinleye, which opened at the Brunei Gallery in 2014.

In addition to religious reform, I also have a strong research interest in development issues. I am currently Co-I on the DFG-funded project ‘Religious Reform, Faith-Based Development and the Public Sphere in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (Lagos, Dar es Salaam and Cape Town). The project explores how the recent integration of faith-based initiatives into transnational developments is embedded in the wider reconfiguration of the public sphere in Nigeria and the resurgence of both Pentecostal Christianity and reformist Islam.


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email


Languages: Mandinka

Available for
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • The Gambia


Authored Books

Janson, Marloes (2021) Crossing Religious Boundaries: Islam, Christianity, and 'Yoruba Religion' in Lagos, Nigeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Janson, Marloes and Akinleye, Akintunde (2014) The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in megacity Lagos. London: SOAS, University of London.

Janson, Marloes (2013) Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama'at. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Janson, Marloes (2002) The Best Hand is the Hand that Always Gives. Griottes and their Profession in Eastern Gambia. Leiden: CNWS Publications.


Janson, Marloes (2022) 'Islamic Trends and Movements in Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa'. Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies.

Janson, Marloes (2020) 'Crossing Borders: The Case of NASFAT or “Pentecostal Islam” in Southwest Nigeria'. Social Anthropology, (28) 2, pp 418-433.

Janson, Marloes (2017) 'Studying Religious Pluralism in Yorubaland: A Tribute to J.D.Y. Peel'. Religion and Society: Advances in Research, (8) 2017.

Janson, Marloes (2017) 'Male Wives and Female Husbands: Reconfiguring Gender in the Tablighi Jamaʻat in the Gambia'. Journal of Religion in Africa, (46) 2-3, pp 187-218.

Schulz, Dorothea and Janson, Marloes (2017) 'Introduction: Religion and Masculinities in Africa'. Journal of Religion in Africa, (46) 2-3, pp 121-128.

Janson, Marloes (2016) 'Unity Through Diversity: A Case Study of Chrislam in Lagos'. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, (86) 4, pp 646-672.

Janson, Marloes and Meyer, Birgit (2016) 'Introduction: Towards a Framework for the Study of Christian-Muslim Encounters in Africa'. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, (86) 4, pp 615-619.

Janson, Marloes and Akinleye, Akintunde (2016) 'The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in Megacity Lagos (Nigeria)'. Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief, (11) 4, pp 550-562.

Janson, Marloes (2016) '‘How, for God’s sake, can I be a good Muslim?' Gambian Youth in Search of a Moral Lifestyle'. Ethnography, (17) 1, pp 22-46.

Janson, Marloes (2012) '‘We don’t Despair, since we know that Islam is the Truth’: New Expressions of Religiosity in Young Adherents of the Tabligh Jama‘at in the Gambia'. L’Afrique des Générations. Entre tensions et négociations, pp 579-615.

Janson, Marloes (2012) 'Islam and Politics in the Gambia'. Oxford Islamic Studies Online.

Janson, Marloes (2012) 'Tablīgh-i Jamāʿat in West Africa'. Oxford Islamic Studies Online.

Janson, Marloes (2011) 'Living Islam Through Death: Demarcating Muslim Identity in a Rural Serahuli Community in The Gambia'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (17) 1, pp 100-115.

Janson, Marloes (2008) 'Renegotiating Gender: Changing Moral Practice in the Tabligh Jama‘at in The Gambia'. Journal for Islamic Studies, (28), pp 9-36.

Janson, Marloes and Schulz, Dorothea (2008) 'Introduction: Piety, Responsibility, Subjectivity - Changing Moral Economies of Gender Relations in Contemporary Muslim Africa'. Journal for Islamic Studies, (28), pp 2-8.

Janson, Marloes (2007) 'Appropriating Islam: The Tensions between ‘Traditionalists’ and ‘Modernists’ in The Gambia'. Islam et sociétés au sud du Sahara, nouvelle série, (1), pp 61-79.

Janson, Marloes (2007) 'Pleasing God and Pleasing the Patrons: Portrait of a Female Finoo in The Gambia'. Canadian Journal of African Studies, (41) 1, pp 38-65.

Janson, Marloes (2006) ''We are all the same, because we are all worshipping God.' The Controversial Case of a Female Saint in The Gambia'. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, (76) 4, pp 502-525.

Janson, Marloes (2006) 'The Prophet’s Path: Tablighi Jamaat in The Gambia'. ISIM Review, (17) 1, pp 44-45.

Janson, Marloes (2006) 'We are the sauce on top of the rice.’ A Case Study on the Finoo Negotiation of Muslim Identity in The Gambia'. Mande Studies, (8), pp 183-205.

Janson, Marloes (2005) 'Roaming about for God’s Sake: The Upsurge of the Tablīgh Jamā‘at in The Gambia'. Journal of Religion in Africa, (35) 4, pp 450-481.

Janson, Marloes (2004) 'Gai Sakiliba: portrait d’une jalimusoo de Gambie'. Africultures, (61), pp 74-85.

Janson, Marloes (2002) 'Praising as a Gendered Activity: How Jalimusoolu and Jalikeolu exercise their Profession in Eastern Gambia'. Mande Studies, (4), pp 65-82.

Janson, Marloes (2002) 'On the Boundaries of Muslim Gender Ideology'. ISIM Newsletter, (11), pp 28.

Edited Books or Journals

Meyer, Birgit and Janson, Marloes, (eds.), (2016) Africa - Volume 86, Issue 4 (Nov 2016): Studying Islam and Christianity in Africa: Moving Beyond a Bifurcated Field. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meyer, Birgit and Janson, Marloes, (eds.), (2016) Rethinking Muslim-Christian Encounters in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Special Issue of Africa Vol. 86 No.4).

Janson, Marloes and Polak, Rainer, (eds.), (2003) Experts in Mandé. Training, strategieën en performances. Leiden, Netherlands: Vereniging van Afrika Studies.

Book Chapters

Janson, Marloes and Dilger, Hansjoerg (2022) 'Religiously-Motivated Schools and Universities as ‘Moral Enclaves’: Reforming Urban Youths in Tanzania and Nigeria'. In: Garbin, David and Coleman, Simon and Millington, Garreth, (eds.), Religious Urbanisation and the Moral Economies of Development in Africa. London: Bloomsbury. [Forthcoming]

Janson, Marloes (2018) 'Modern Love in Lagos: Dating the Halal Way in Lagos'. In: Gomez-Perez, Muriel, (ed.), Femmes d’Afrique et émancipation: Entre normes sociales contraignantes et nouveaux possibles. Paris: Éditions Karthala, pp 241-274.

Janson, Marloes (2018) 'Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa'. In: Shanguhyia, Martin S. and Falola, Toyin, (eds.), Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 951-977.

Janson, Marloes (2015) 'Modern Love: Dating the Halal Way in Lagos'. In: Gomez-Perez, Muriel, (ed.), Femmes, génération et agency en Afrique subsaharienne: vers de nouveaux defies. Paris: Karthala.

Janson, Marloes (2014) 'Praise Performances by Jalimusolu in the Gambia'. In: Hale, Thomas A. and Sidikou, Aissata G., (eds.), Women’s Songs from West Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp 88-111.

Janson, Marloes (2013) 'Renegotiating Gender: Changing Moral Practice in the Tabligh Jama‘at in The Gambia'. In: Padru, Bade and Sacke, Brigid Maa, (eds.), Islam in Africa South of the Sahara: Essays in Gender Relations and Political Reform. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, pp 99-120.

Janson, Marloes (2012) 'Chrislam: Forging Ties in Nigeria’s Multi-Religious Society'. In: Uchendu, Egodi, (ed.), New Face of Islam in Eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. Makurdi: Aboki Publishers, pp 203-228.

Janson, Marloes (2011) 'Guidelines for the Ideal Muslim Woman: Gender Ideology and Praxis in the Tabligh Jama‘at in the Gambia'. In: Badran, Margot, (ed.), Gender and Islam in Africa: Rights, Sexuality, and Law. Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press & Stanford University Press, pp 147-172.

Janson, Marloes (2010) 'The Battle of the Ages: Contests for Religious Authority in The Gambia'. In: Herrera, Linda and Bayat, Asef, (eds.), Being Young and Muslim. New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. New York: Oxford University Press, pp 95-111.

Janson, Marloes (2009) 'Mixing Local and Muslim Traditions: The Finoo Profession in The Gambia'. In: Luning, Sabine and de Maaker, Erik and Jansen, Jan, (eds.), Traditions on the Move: Essays in Honour of Jarich Oosten. Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publications, pp 97-110.

Janson, Marloes (2009) 'Searching for God. Young Gambians 19 Conversion to the Tabligh Jama 18at'. In: Diouf, Mamadou and Leichtman, Mara, (eds.), New Perspectives on Islam in Senegal: Conversion, Migration, Wealth, Power and Femininity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 139-166.

Janson, Marloes (2007) 'Representations: Legends, Epics, and Performance'. In: Suad, Joseph, (ed.), Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures Volume 5. Leiden: Brill, pp 450-452.

Janson, Marloes and Spronk, Rachel (2005) 'Ambiguous Encounters: Gender in the Context of Modernity in the Gambia and Kenya'. In: van der Kwaak, Anke and Spronk, Rachel and Willemse, Karin, (eds.), From Modern Myths to Global Encounters. Belonging and the Dynamics of Change in Postcolonial Africa. Leiden: CNWS Publications.

Janson, Marloes (2004) 'The Narration of the Sunjata Epic as a Gendered Activity'. In: Jansen, Jan and Maier, Henk M.J., (eds.), Epic Adventures. Heroic Narrative in the Oral Performance Traditions of Four Continents. Münster: Lit Verlag, pp 81-88.

Janson, Marloes and Nyang, Sulayman S (2002) 'Gambia'. In: Esposito, John L., (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 283-286.

Book Reviews

Janson, Marloes (2011) 'Book Review of Janet McIntosh 19s "The Edge of Islam. Power, Personhood, and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast"'. American Ethnologist, (38) 2, pp 402-403.

Janson, Marloes (2010) 'Book Review of Adeline Masquelier’s "Women and Islamic Revival in a West African Town"'. American Anthropologist, (112) 4, pp 675-676.

Janson, Marloes (2002) 'Book review of Katrin Pfeiffer’s “Sprache und Musik in Mandinka-Erzählungen”'. Journal of Language and Public Culture, (2).


Janson, Marloes and Akinleye, Akintunde (2014) 'The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in Megacity Lagos'.


Janson, Marloes (2012) 'Contribution of Mandinka songs to the anthology Women’s Voices from West Africa'.


This list was last generated on Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 23:15 Europe/London.