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Steve Hinnefeld
IU Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

German foundation funds IU Bloomington professor's research in West Africa

Feb. 27, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- News stories about Muslims in West Africa typically focus on conflict, whether it's Islamist radicals fighting government forces in Mali or a terrorist group bombing Christian churches in Nigeria. The history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Ghana demonstrates that such conflicts are neither the norm nor inevitable.

John Hanson, associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, has been awarded a research scholarship from Germany's Gerda Henkel Foundation to continue his research on the Ahmadiyya movement. The highly competitive scholarship will provide funding for research in Ghana and for time spent writing in Bloomington.

Hanson is working on a book project titled "Transnational Islam and Civil Society in Ghana, West Africa: the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, 1921-present."

The Gerda Henkel Foundation, in Düsseldorf, Germany, was founded in 1976 to support international academic projects in the humanities, with an emphasis on art history, history and Islamic studies. It has established formal cooperative relations with numerous universities in Europe and North America, including Princeton and Stanford universities.

Hanson's research examines how the Ahmadiyya movement supports education, health care and other engagements with modernity, particularly in Ghana. The movement was founded over a century ago in South Asia and established a mission in 1921 in the British Gold Coast colony in West Africa at the invitation of African Muslims. It established English-language schools, open to Muslims and Christians and to boys and girls, at a time when there were few opportunities for formal education in what later became Ghana. In the 1970s, it greatly expanded its provision of education and health care to all Ghanaians.

Hanson was selected as one of 33 National Humanities Center Fellows in 2009. His research on the Ahmadiyya has also been funded by Rockefeller, Fulbright and Indiana University grants. He served as director of IU Bloomington's Africa Studies Program from 1999 to 2007 and received the university's John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Programs and Studies in 2011.