I am pleased to announce the publication of my first book, Invoking the Invisible in the Sahara: Islam, Spiritual Mediation, and Social Change, with Cambridge University Press. The book is accessible online for those with institutional access to Cambridge Core and available for purchase at the CUP website and on Bookshop.org.
By Erin Pettigrew, Invoking the Invisible in the Sahara: Islam, Spiritual Mediation, and Social Change. Cambridge University Press. 2023. 252 pp.
Invoking the Invisible in the Sahara utilizes invisible forces and entities - esoteric knowledge and spirits - to show how these forms of knowledge and unseen forces have shaped social structures, religious norms, and political power in the Saharan West. Situating this ethnographic history in what became la Mauritanie under French colonial rule and, later the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the book traces the changing roles of Muslim spiritual mediators and their Islamic esoteric sciences - known locally as l'ḥjāb - over the long-term history of the region. By exploring the impact of the immaterial in the material world and demonstrating the importance of Islamic esoteric sciences in Saharan societies, the book illuminates peoples' enduring reliance upon these sciences in their daily lives and argues for a new approach to historical research that takes the immaterial seriously.
Part I Knowledge and Authority in Precolonial Contexts
Chapter 1: Principles of Provenance: Origins, Debates, and Social Structures of l’hjāb in the Saharan West
Chapter 2: Local Wisdom: Contestations over l’hjāb in the Eighteenth–Nineteenth Centuries
Part II Rupture, Consonance, and Innovation in Colonial and Postcolonial Mauritania
Chapter 3: Colonial Logics of Islam: Managing the Threat of l’hjāb
Chapter 4: Postcolonial Transfigurations: Contesting l’hjāb in the Era of Social Media
Part III Articulating Race, Gender, and Social Difference through the Esoteric Sciences
Chapter 5: Desert Panic: Bloodsucking Accusations and the Terror of Social Change
Chapter 6: Sui Generis: Genealogical Claims to the Past and the Transmission of l’hjāb
Associate Professor History and Arab Crossroads Studies
Co-PI Humanities Research Fellowship for the Study of the Arab World
NYU Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Tel: UAE: +971 56 424 2525
FR: +33 6 46 11 33 15