KNOWTH | Knowledge and Power


Knowledgeable Others: Thought and practice about non-human beings among Muslims in the Western Mediterranean (Morocco and Ceuta)

Human experiences with the Other, particularly with non-humans, often result in a transfer of knowledge about the Other. Of particular importance among Muslims in the Western Mediterranean, specifically among present-day Sunni Muslims in Morocco and in the Spanish North African city of Ceuta, is the way in which knowledge on non-human beings is produced and transferred. Two of the main aims of my project –in line with my previous critical research on the topic- is to explore how Muslims in the Western Mediterranean conceive the modes of existence of non-human beings, particularly of the so-called žnūn, and to explain how knowledge on these beings is produced and transferred. Thus, my project will take into account both discourses and practices related to the different understandings of non-human beings, and it will study how interespecific relationships are established and evoked.

Inspired by recent anthropological research linked to the so-called « ontological turn » experienced by the Social Sciences and Humanities, my work acknowledges the plurality of discourses about what it means to be human and non-human for Muslims of the Western Mediterranean in contemporary times. The project is interdisciplinary, as it combines the methods of Social Anthropology and History. It is mainly based on multisited ethnographic fieldwork carried out both in northern Morocco (Jbala and Rif) and Ceuta.

Besides generating new qualitative ethnographic data on topics of research largely neglected such as spirit possession and human-animal relations, but also on Islamic sainthood, the project explores the anthropological and historical dimensions of local ontologies. An special emphasis will be placed in improving our understanding of the ways in which Muslims give meaning to bodies and embodied practices. By focusing on the dynamics of globalisation, (re)islamisation and secularisation, the project will locate the heterogeneity of discourses on the Other and alterity in its biopolitical and relational dimensions.


  • • Araceli González Vázquez (2015) : Mujeres, Islam y alteridades en el norte de Marruecos, Barcelona, Edicions Bellaterra.
  • • Araceli González Vázquez (2015) : « Spirit possession in Morocco », Laycock, J. (ed) Spirit possession around the world : Possession, communion and demon expulsion across cultures, ABC-CLIO, 243-244.
  • • Araceli González Vázquez (2014) : « Dreaming, Dream-Sharing and Dream-Interpretation as feminine powers in Northern Morocco », Journal of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia, 2, 1, 97-108.
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