Emily Anne Williamson is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Boston University. Her current research is about how people negotiate belonging through “comings and goings” (zirga-zirga) in the Nima zongo – a predominantly Muslim migrant community in the heart of Accra, Ghana. “Zongo” means “traveler’s camp,” “stopover,” or “stranger’s quarters” in the Hausa language and is the name for a type of settlement in West Africa where minority religious communities live. Arguably the largest and most diverse zongo in West Africa, individuals living in Nima rely less on formal laws, regulations, and static boundaries than they do on a constant mingling and moving together as they come and go.
Taking an individual-centered approach, her research addresses how people living in Nima embody, create, and sustain belonging in a place fundamentally defined by movement. As such, the study calls into question prevailing anthropological and western philosophical narratives presuming we need to be rooted in order to belong.
Emily holds a Master of Science in Architectural Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia, and an undergraduate degree in Art History from Colby College. Emily has also taught Landscape Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and is a co-founder of the nonprofit organization called the “Zongo Story Project” in which she works with students in Ghana to write, illustrate, and tell stories. For more information about her projects and publications, please visit her website.