Setting the Scene: Place and Method

  • Jennifer A. Selby
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


“Come on ladies!!! What do you WANT? What do you NEED? You’re in charge now!” shouts Philippe, a boisterous long-haired local actor in his early forties, circling animatedly around a group of mostly Muslim women of North African origin.1 Twenty or so women are seated in orange stackable plastic chairs at tables arranged in a half circle in the basement of a community center outside of Paris. The room is poorly heated; most women wear their winter jackets zipped closed. A few of the women in attendance smile politely at the lanky would-be thespian, while others avert their eyes and shift uncomfortably. The annoyance is palpable in the air. Unperturbed, Philippe grabs a small tiara from his knapsack and places it on the head of a surprised, headscarved 57-year-old woman of Moroccan origin sitting on the far side of the half circle. “Hakima,” he gestures ceremoniously, “you are a queen! You have a crown. You can demand whatever you want!” Her dark-brown eyes do not stir. She sits impassively and is obviously unimpressed.


Social Comportment Muslim Woman Colonial Period French Language Religious Sign 
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© Jennifer A. Selby 2012

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  • Jennifer A. Selby

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