Rudolf Gaudio’s Allah Made Us tells the story of how sexual outlaws and Islamic sociocultural norms coexisted and produced a complex sociolinguistic world in Kano and other cities in Northern Nigeria, a Muslim West African region. Once a center of Islamic emirates, interreligious interaction and a cultural hub, the advent of British colonialism and Islamic revivalism facilitated the growth of an intolerant environment in Nigeria, operating as a kind of “modernistic moralism” that disorganized bori (spirit possession) practices and marginalized a once thriving sexual community known as ‘yan daudu (p. 9). The broader argument throughout Gaudio’s book is that sociolinguistic practices— so often framed as insignificant identity markers to shape cultural or sexual citizenships— are integral to both. The result is an intervention to how we understand the relationship between gendered language and non-normative identities in Northern Nigeria, and a narrative of how the political potential of language, often understood as neutral, is deeply embedded as “a medium of social participation and an object of criticism and control” (p. 8). Beyond providing a rich, vivid ethnography of ‘yan daudu, the book also traces how moral purification and subcultures shape possibilities in present-day Nigeria.
Gaudio’s account begins in 1993, when he first encountered ‘yan daudu, a community of men, who are characterized by feminine mannerisms and/or homosexual practices and desires (p. 19).