Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013


Non-human and human beings and their entanglements within Muslim milieux

Location University Place 3.210
Date and Start Time 06 Aug, 2013 at 14:00


Araceli Gonzalez-Vazquez (Universidad del País Vasco/Basque Country University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel aims at promoting a broad discussion on non-human and human beings and their entanglements within Muslim milieux.

Long Abstract

The anthropology of Muslim milieux involves the study of very different issues in the treatment of the relations between humans and non-humans. Interestingly, academic research has a long history of engagement with the analysis of the co-existence of Muslims and non-human beings. This panel engages with recent (re)thinking of human and non-human agencies (Descola, Haraway, Ingold, Strathern, Latour, Viveiros de Castro, etc.) in order to focus on an anthropology of alterity and an anthropology of the mingling of creative agents (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 241-242; Kirksey and Helmreich 2010:546). Willing to adhere to recent scholarship which promotes the exploitaition of ethnography, ethnohistory and ethnoarchaeology´s potential for (re)thinking alterity, it attempts to explore the role of religious discourses and practices in the shaping of human and nonhuman relations.

The panel aims at reflecting on the ontological tensions between different forms of being. A merely orientative and non-exhaustive list includes humans, animals, jnun, angels, shayatin, ´afarit, Iblis, Shaytan,… One of the main goals of this panel would be to reflect on the voice and agency of the non-human.

The panel will host accounts and reflections concerning the relationship of humans and non-humans in Muslim milieux. Not restricted to: understandings of human and non-human natures/selves, kinship relationships between human and non-humans, bodies, experiences, embodiment, emplacement, discourses, practices, narratives, self-narratives, memories, representations, mimesis, performances, topologies, technologies of the self, ontological tensions, boundaries, continuities, discontinuities, affects, emotions, materialities, traits, traces, etc.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Imaginaries of capitalism in Sierra Leone: linking distant human beings through the invisible

Author: Lorenzo D'Angelo (Catholic University of Milan)  email
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Short Abstract

In Sierra Leone the Qur’anic cosmology has become a source of symbols and images for elaborated mineral cosmogonies. This paper argues that a critical analysis of diamond miners’ relationship with jinn is crucial to understand the distance relationship with the bodies of diamond consumers.

Long Abstract

Inspired by the notion of “radical imaginary” (Castoriadis), and by the debate on the fetishism of commodities, my ethnographic research in the artisanal diamond mines of Sierra Leone (2007-2011) shows how long-term historical experiences of uncertainty and risk, exploitation and violence have sedimented in the imaginaries and ecological praxis of the miners.

In this paper I argue that the Qur’anic cosmology has become a source of symbols and images for elaborated mineral cosmogonies. According to several miners, diamonds belong to, or are under the control of, invisible beings known as dεbul or jinn. In the south-eastern diamondiferous areas of Sierra Leone, there are miners who turn to these invisible presences to increase their chances to find the precious stones and accumulate an extraordinary wealth in a short period of time.

What I wish to suggest is that the images of the jinn dramatize the distance relationship with ‘absent persons’ who, however distant and unknown they may be, are historically linked to this African region through an extended and centuries-old network of social and economic relations.

This paper argues that a critical analysis of this “magma” of meanings and practices is crucial to understand the distance relationship between gem-producers and gem-consumers. By taking into account the point of view of those who are lying on the fringes of the global commodity chains this paper advocates the value of an approach that goes beyond the ontology of determinacy and call our attention on contingency and social creativity.

« Urbanisante » and « ruralisante » trends of relations between humans and nonhumans in a small mountain town (Chefchaouen - Western Rif - Morocco)

Author: Isabelle Jabiot (Université Nanterre Paris Ouest la Défense)  email
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Short Abstract

In Chefchaouen the relations with non-humans has an analogical ontology character including animist elements. But comparing singular beings in situation allows the hypothesis of urban and rural trends. This leads to a reflection on the cultural learning and on the children as category of beings.

Long Abstract

This communication suggests a reflection on the relations between humans and non-humans in a small Moroccan mountain town. The originality of Chefchaouen lies in the approach to urban and rural systems in the city's identity and daily life. The relations between human and nonhumans include animals, breed or not, spirits, jnun-s, Shaytan, God, the evil eye, angels, children and adults. The analysis of ethnographic data proves that an analogical ontology (characterization of beings and things according to the space in which they are located) with one-off animist elements is significant. This ontological scheme (defined as a cosmological form and a system of attributes and interactions of beings) is comparable to the scheme found in the surrounding jbala rural area (Gonzalez-Vazquez, 2010) and the South of Morocco (Simenel, 2012). Nevertheless, the city presents heterogeneity and diversity. Through the ethnography of individual modes of existence and in situation characterization of beings it's possible to assert that a plurality of trends of perceptions and interactions with nonhumans happen. Using a comparison of singular and individual discourses and practices the hypothesis of the existence of two trends, "ruralisante" and "urbanisante", can be made. This leads to the questioning of cultural learning processes, individual life trajectories and ways of familiarization with the environment. For instance, in the case of literate and scholar urban, a rural-origin migrant or a goat breeder. Furthermore, it appears that children are a specific class of beings whose interactions with non-humans happen to be very distinctive from the ones adults have.

Adobe as an Islamic standard - vernacular cosmopolitics

Author: Rolando Melo  email
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Short Abstract

Being an attempt to religiously relate non-monumental, adobe vernacular structures in Islamic terms, this paper aims to engage earthen architecture with Quranic and Prophetic precepts taken as actants.

Long Abstract

Which human & non-human collectives align in the process of building an adobe structure in an Islamic framework?

Dwelling from clay collecting to unbaked brick-making and building procedures, this paper proposes to test earthen architecture determined networks and technologies within Islamic patterns, remounting the adobe-labin(ah) connection vis-à-vis the human telluric creative standard that both Al-Qur'an and the Sunna refers. Opening the black box of earthen vernacular structures with an actor-network theory propelled approach, one will try to religiously account some building affairs ranging from the referential masjid an-Nabi to present-day 'unorthodox' ethnographic contexts in Muslim geopolitics - namely Al-Gharb Al-Andalus -, so as to compare material culture and moral typologies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

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