Cultural Anthropology

JoAnn D'Alisera

JoAnn D'Alisera

Departmental Chairperson

(ARSC)-Arts & Sciences


Phone: 479-575-4460

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JoAnn D’Alisera is Chair for the Department of Anthropology. She teaches courses on Africa, Africans in America, Religion, Material Culture, Transnational Communities, Islam, Cities, Commemoration and Memorialization. Dr. D’Alisera’s first book, An Imagined Geography: Sierra Leonean Muslims in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), examines the way Sierra Leonean Muslims fashion a sense of community in an American urban context.  Her second project, funded by a Rockefeller Fellowship in the Humanities and Russell Sage Foundation grant explores the social experiences of Sierra Leonean Muslims, African foreign nationals, and US citizens of recent African origin living in Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of 9/11. She is currently completing a manuscript based on this work entitled, City Space and the Poetics of Pious Enactment: Making Muslim Selves in the Sierra Leonean Diaspora in which she explores the way Sierra Leonean Muslims remake city space through acts of worship that disrupt the taken-for-granted spatial narratives that cast the city as the primary symbol of national belonging, civic dignity, and power in the American popular imagination. She has published journal articles in EthnographyPoLar: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Journal of Material Culture, African Diaspora, Anthropology Today and Anthropology and Humanism.

  • West Africa
  • Africans in America
  • Islam
  • American Islam
  • City Cultures
  • Religion
  • Material Culture
  • Memorialization
  • Commemoration
  • Representation
  • Anthropology of Experience
  • Transnational Communities and Identities
  • Fieldwork in Cultural Anthropology
  • Ethnographic Writing
  • Urban Religious Expression
  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Anthropology of City 
  • Anthropology of Museums, Material Culture
  • Transnational Religious Identities
  • Cultures of Africa
  • Religions of Africa
  • Transnational Muslim Communities
  • American Islam

Ph.D. University of Illinois


An Imagined Geography: Sierra Leonean Muslims in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, pp.181

City Space and the Poetics of Pious Enactment: Making Muslim Selves in the Sierra Leonean Diaspora (in progress)


“Articulating Displacement: Sierra Leonean Muslim Dress Practice and the Aesthetics of Negotiation,” Ethnography 19:3 (2018), 396-410

“Public Spaces/Muslim Places: Locating Sierra Leonean Muslim Identity in Washington, D.C.,” African Diaspora 3:1 (2010), 93-109

“Images of a Wounded Homeland: Sierra Leonean-American Children and the New Heart of Darkness,” Nancy Foner (ed.), Family Ties: Immigrant Families in America.  New York: New York University Press. (2009), pp 114-34

“Icons of Longing: Homeland and Memory in the Sierra Leonean Diaspora,” PoLar: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review 25:2 (2002), 73-89

“I ? Islam: Popular Religious Commodities, Sites of Inscription, and Transnational Sierra Leonean Identity,” Journal of Material Culture 6:1 (2001), 89-108

 “Field of Dreams: The Anthropologist Far Away at Home,” Anthropology and Humanism 24 (1999), 5-19

“Born in the USA: Naming Ceremonies of Infants among Sierra Leoneans in the American Capital,” Anthropology Today 14 (1998), 16-18


“I ? Islam: Popular Religious Commodities, Sites of Inscription, and Transnational Sierra Leonean Identity,”Anna Piela (ed.), Islam and   Popular Culture. London: Routledge (2017), 91-110

“Teren marzen. Antropolog dleko w domu.” Etnografia, 2: (2016), 211-234. English Translation: “Field of Dreams: An Anthropologist Far   Away at Home.”

Book Reviews

Zareena Grewal, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (New York: New York University Press (2013) In American Ethnologist 43(4) (2016), 785-786.

Matsuoka, Atsuko and John Sorenson, Ghosts and Shadows: Construction of Identity and Community in an African Diaspora (University of Toronto Press, 2001) in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9 (2003), 189-190

Maris Boyd Gillette, Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption Among Urban Chinese Muslims (Stanford University Press, 2000) in American Ethnologist 29 (2002), 1018-1020

McGown, Rima Berns, Muslims in the Diaspora: The Somali Communities of London and Toronto (University of Toronto Press, (1999) in American Ethnologist 29 (2002), 1018-1020

Gregory Starrett, Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt, University of California Press, (1998) in Religious Studies Review 25 (1999), 438-439

Barbara Daly Metcalf, Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe (University of California Press, (1996) in Middle East Report 209 (1998), 46-47

C. Bawa Yamba, Permanent Pilgrims: The Role of Pilgrimage in the Lives of West African Muslims in Sudan, Smithsonian Institution Press, (1995) in American Ethnologist 25 (1998), 76-77