Susan J. Rasmussen

Susan J. Rasmussen

Ph.D., Indiana University

McElhinney Hall, Room 258-A


Susan J. Rasmussen is a social/cultural anthropologist whose interests include religion, medico-ritual healing and healing specialists, aging and the life cycle, gender, verbal art performance, memory, personal narrative, human rights, and African humanities, who for approximately 25 years has conducted ethnographic field research in rural and urban communities of Tuareg (also called Kel Tamajaq) in northern Niger and Mali, and more briefly, also among Tuareg and other Berber expatriates in France and the United States. Her over fifty publications include four authored books and numerous articles and chapters in peer-reviewed, refereed journals and edited volumes. Her recent and ongoing projects include a fifth book manuscript in review, on the topic of ritual powers of African smith/artisans in comparative perspective; analysis of data from her study of modern Tamajaq theatrical plays; and a proposal to study youth culture in a Malian town. She recently presented two panel papers at academic conferences of the African Studies Association and the American Anthropological Association on intergenerational themes in Tuareg plays and the roles of Tuareg smith/artisans as intercultural mediators. Her community (volunteer) service includes various synergistic activities related to human rights, for example, political asylum cases and anti-torture activism. Her students in the anthropology departmental M.A. program at the University of Houston have conducted research on topics such as Haitian voudou; performance and nationhood in Scotland; home birthing practices in Houston; the Gulen movement within Islam; gender, ethnicity and education in Houston; the social uses of proverbs in African-American communities; and modest dress and its meanings among women of several different religious backgrounds in Houston.

Research Interests

  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Aging and the life cycle
  • Medico-rituals and healing specialists
  • Verbal art performance
  • Memory
  • Human rights
  • Africa (Sahara; Sahel; West Africa; North Africa)


Africanist Award for Research Excellence, University of Texas, Austin, March, 2008


  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Ethnological Society
  • The Semiotic Society of America
  • African Studies Association
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Houston Museum of Fine Arts
  • Amnesty International

Selected Publications

Rasmussen, Susan. Spirit Possession and Personhood among the Kel Ewey Tuareg. N.p.: Cambridge; University Press, 1995.

Rasmussen, Susan. The Poetics and Politics of Tuareg Aging. Northern Illinois University Press, 1997.

Rasmussen, Susan. Healing in Community. N.p.: Bergin & Garvey Press, 2001.

Rasmussen, Susan. Those Who Touch: Tuareg Medicine Women in Anthropological Perspective. Northern Illinois University Press, 2006.

Rasmussen, Susan. (2009). Critically Re-Thinking 'Islamic Dress', The American Journal of Semiotics, vol 25. 1-2 ,pp.1-23.

Rasmussen, Susan. Do Tents and Herds Still Matter, Pastoral Nomadism and Gender, eds., Carolyn Sargent and Caroline Brettel, Prentice Hall Press, pp. 162-174.

Rasmussen, Susan. (2008). The People of Solitude, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 14, pp. 609-627.

Curriculum Vitae