Michelle C. Johnson is a cultural anthropologist specializing in religion and ritual in West Africa and in the contemporary African diaspora.

Educational Background

  • B.A., University of Washington
  • M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Teaching/Research Specialties

  • West Africa
  • Africans in Europe
  • Symbolic and interpretive anthropology
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion and ritual
  • Islam
  • The life course
  • Ethnographic field methods
  • Anthropological theory
  • Transnational communities.

Selected Publications


“Culture's Calling: Mobile Phones, Gender, and the Making of an African Migrant Village in Lisbon.” Anthropology Quarterly 86:1 (2013), 163-190.

“Death and the Left Hand: Islam, Gender, and ‘Proper’ Mandinga Funerary Custom in Guinea-Bissau and Portugal” African Studies Review (Special Issue: Guinea-Bissau Today) 52:2 (2009), 93-117.

“Making Mandinga or Making Muslims? Debating Female Circumcision, Ethnicity, and Islam in Guinea-Bissau and Portugal.” In Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context, ed. Ylva Hernlund and Bettina Shell-Duncan (2007), 202-223. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

“The Proof Is on My Palm: Debating Islam and Ritual in a New African Diaspora.” The Journal of Religion in Africa 36:1 (2006), 50-77.

“The View from the Wuro: A Guide to Childrearing for Fulani Parents.” In A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies, ed. Judy S. DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb (2000), 171-198. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

“Becoming a Muslim; Becoming a Person: Female ‘Circumcision,’ Religious Identity, and Personhood in Guinea-Bissau.” In Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change, ed. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund (2000), 215-233. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.


“Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology.” In Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. Jon R. McGee and Richard L. Warms (2013), Vol. 2, 841-845. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

“Islam.” In The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion, ed. Richard A. Shweder (2009), 517-519. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

“Religion in Guinea-Bissau.” In The Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, ed. Thomas Riggs (2006), 440-447. Farmington Hills, MI. Thomas Gale.


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