Emily Anne Williamson is a PhD student in anthropology at Boston University. Her current research focuses on questions of belonging, place, and pluralism among “zongos,” the name used to describe predominantly Muslim urban settlements in Ghana, West Africa. Emily holds a Master of Science in Architectural Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia (UVA), and an undergraduate degree in Art History from Colby College. Emily has also worked as an architect in Washington, DC, collaborated on cultural heritage projects in Ghana, Peru, and Haiti, and has taught at Landscape
Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Emily has a lasting commitment to researching and working with communities in Ghana.
With over ten years of intermittent engagement with zongo residents as a teacher, designer, landscape heritage consultant, and anthropologist, she has gained cultural literacy and built trusted relationships among zongos in Accra, Cape Coast, Elmina, Salt Pond, Kumasi, Techiman, Wa, and the Bronx, New York. In graduate school at UVA, she worked with the local non-profit Ghanaian Heritage Conservation Trust, Metropolitan Assembly, and Cape Coast zongo to design and implement a long-term community-based project aiming to mutually improve their water infrastructure and quality of life. And more recently, in partnership with John Schaidler and local organizations in Nima-Accra, she held a storybook workshop teaching students how to illustrate, write, and
perform stories embedded in local community concerns. As a graduate student at MIT, she traveled the historic Black Volta Islamic trade route linking zongos from the Gulf of Guinea to the Sahel to tell a nuanced historical account
of these zongos’ socio-spatial evolution. And on a much smaller scale, she worked collaboratively with the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and International Monetary Fund, to interview residents and survey existing Asante religious shrine buildings so as to develop a long-term, community-based preservation plan for the city of Kumasi. Most recently, as a graduate student in anthropology at Boston University, she has become proficient in the Hausa language and will begin her ethnographic fieldwork in the summer of 2018. A few of Emily’s publications include: a Review of Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere, by Prita Meier (H-AMCA: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, 2017); “Understanding the Zongo: socio-spatial processes of marginalization in Ghana.” (The African Metropolis edited by Toyin Falola and Bisola Falola, 2017), and “Zongo: Water Infrastructure and Public Life” (University of Chicago Art Journal, 2010).