We read (and write here) a lot about gender issues in the scientific arena but usually topics are related to science education and promoting greater equality of numbers at the higher levels. There are a number of studies
detailing the issues women face in a predominantly male science world but a University of Missouri religion professor has found that if the researcher is a male fieldworker studying women, the situation can be just as challenging.
His conclusions about male researchers studying female subjects are based on his extensive observations of the Diola (pronounced joe-la) people. Robert M. Baum, professor of religious studies in the College of Arts and Science has been traveling to southwestern Senegal on the African continent and conducting field research among the Diola communities, approximately 600,000 people, for more than 30 years. The modern Diola are primarily rice farmers.
Initially, Baum's work focused on pre-colonial Diola religious history during the era of the Atlantic slave trade, a period when there were male prophets. Later in his research, Baum studied the work and influence of Diola female prophets who began appearing after the French and Portuguese conquest of Diola lands in the late 1800s.