Northwestern University

Mon 4:00 PM

Healing the Body, Healing the Umma: Sufi Saints, God's Law, and Reflections on the Islamic Body Pol

When: Monday, November 4, 2013
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Program of African Studies   847.491.7323

Group: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings

More Info


Healing the Body, Healing the Umma:  Sufi Saints, God's Law, and Reflections on the Islamic Body Politic in Morocco and North Africa

Ellen Amster, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Abstract: In "Healing the Body, Healing the Umma," Ellen Amster investigates a precolonial political imaginary in which Sufi saints were 'public healers,' restoring bodies and the community to wholeness.  In pre-protectorate Morocco, the people constructed themselves as a sovereign Islamic umma, a geopolitical moral body, through saints and the human body. 'Healing' was the saint's restoration of God's law to men and to society, parallel realms simultaneously inhabited by the human being.  What remains of this alternate Islamic Moroccan umma are contemporary illness narratives and fragments of healing practices at the tombs of the saints, historical artifacts of a Sufi way of politics.

Bio: Ellen J. Amster, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is a historian of the modern Middle East and North Africa, specializing in French and Islamic medicine. Her research interests include global health, non-Western health and healing systems, traditional midwifery, women’s studies, Islamic science, French colonialism in North Africa and the physical geographies of Sufism. She has been a simultaneous translator for an ORBIS ocular surgery mission in Morocco, a researcher at the National Institute of Hygiene in Morocco, and created a global public health program in maternal and infant health.  Her book with University of Texas Press is entitled Medicine and the Saints:  Science, Islam and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956 (Spring 2013).  Her current research projects include a translation from Arabic to English of a nineteenth-century Moroccan hagiographical compendium by Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Kattani, Salwat al-Anfas wa muhadathat al-akyas bi man uqbira min al-ulama’ wa al-sulaha’ bi Fas, and its application to a GIS digital mapping project of the city of Fez.



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