Dr. Joseph Hellweg

Associate Professor of Religion
Dr. Joseph Hellweg

Contact Information

Department of Religion
Office Location
M07 Dodd Hall

Joseph Hellweg (Ph.D., 2001, University of Virginia, Anthropology). I am a cultural anthropologist with interests in religion, Islam, politics, performance, and health in West Africa, where I have done over five years of fieldwork?in Cote dfIvoire, Guinea, and Mali. I speak French and Manding fluently and have acquired basic reading and writing competence in the Nfko alphabet for writing Manding.

My research has focused on social movements organized around or in tandem with religious practices and ideologies. I have written extensively on Benkadi, the dozo huntersf security movement of Cote dfIvoire. More recently, I have begun to explore a literacy and healing movement in Guinea and Mali centered on the use of an alphabet called gNfko,h invented in West Africa in 1949.

In my teaching, I attempt to bring to awareness the implicit cultural categories that organize daily life, especially in Africa and the United States. I also train students in the theoretical and methodological approaches necessary for an empirical understanding of and engagement with these categories in their academic and everyday lives.

Beyond the university, I have served as an expert witness in numerous asylum cases for political refugees from Cote dfIvoire. I am an active member of the African Studies Association, the American Academy of Religion, the American Anthropological Association, and the Mande Studies Association.

Field of Study

  • African Religions
  • Islam
  • Ethics
  • Health
  • Performance in West Africa


  • 2011. Hunting the Ethical State: The Benkadi Movement of Cote dfIvoire (University of Chicago Press).
  • 2011. Anthropologie, les premiers pas: Introduction a la modelisation et aux methodes de la recherche qualitative en sciences sociales (LfHarmattan, Paris).