He wanted to observe the hajj as an anthropologist but also to experience it as an ordinary pilgrim, and to write about it for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Here is his intimate, intense, and detailed account of the Hajj--a rare and important document by a subtle, learned, and sympathetic writer. Hammoudi describes not just the adventure, the human pressures, and the social tumult--everything from the early preparations to the last climactic scenes in the holy shrines of Medina and Mecca--but also the intricate politics and amazing complexity of the entire pilgrimage experience. He pays special heed to the effects of Saudi bureaucratic control over the Hajj, to the ways that faith itself becomes a lucrative source of commerce for the Arabian kingdom, and to the Wahhabi inflections of the basic Muslim message. Here, too, is a poignant discussion of the inner voyage that pilgrimage can mean to those who embark on it: the transformed sense of daily life, of worship, and of political engagement.
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Abdellah Hammoudi Abdellah Hammoudi, professor of anthropology, will advance to emeritus status on July 1, Abdellah was born in humble circumstances in rural Morocco, the youngest son in a large family.
Even before completing his Ph. Throughout the s and s, Abdellah held consultancies with the Ministry of Agriculture in Morocco, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the World Bank among other agencies , advising on issues of rural and urban development across North Africa, while simultaneously advancing through the professorial ranks in the Department of Social Sciences at Mohammed V University.
Publishing widely in English and French throughout those years, Abdellah wrote extensively on themes related to his research on development, political economy, civil society, authority, legitimacy, democracy, and religious experience — themes at once practical and theoretical, and central to the modernization of anthropology as a world discipline. Steeped in the scholarly literatures of several traditions, and immersed in the multicultural experience of his ethnographic sites in Morocco, Abdellah developed a distinctive approach to the generativity of cultural difference — indeed, to differences of all kinds.
In the context of an ascendant identity politics within anthropology and the humanities generally, Abdellah has always eschewed any easy identifications, whether for himself or for others.
This idea of culture as a formation across difference rather than difference itself permeates his scholarship. His book La Victime et ses Masques Editions du Seuil, was a transformative ethnographic reinterpretation of a Moroccan ritual tradition involving seemingly opposite movements toward sacrifice and bacchanal; Abdellah showed their mutually corollary relation. Translated as The Victim and Its Masks, this book was an instant classic. During this same period, he held fellowships in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, and at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
Abdellah came to Princeton first as a visiting professor of anthropology, in , joining the permanent faculty in His publications in this period demonstrate the extraordinary acuity of his field ethnography and, at the same time, his deepening engagement with questions central both to our understanding of the Maghreb as a cultural region, and to issues fundamental to anthropology and the human sciences.
He wrote extensively on issues of monarchy, authority, political change, and Islam in North Africa not just as issues of regional importance, but also as points of departure for rethinking the relationship between politics and religion, and difference and cooperation.
His work in this period culminated in an extraordinary project of commitment and experimentation, as he undertook the hajj as a personal and ethnographic journey. This book, too, has now been widely translated. He writes eloquently on anthropological practice. In recent memory, most graduate students in anthropology will have had the good fortune of encountering Abdellah in their first semester, as he often taught the opening semester of the pro-seminar, as well as courses on sacrifice and French social theory.
No matter where they found Abdellah, from him, they learned to read slowly, closely, curiously, and generously — and collegially.
The authenticity of this critique within the Arab world required that he personally share the fate of those about whom he wrote, thus he refused French or American citizenship or dual citizenship. In negotiating these various locations, he is far more than observer or analyst though he is both of these.
He cultivates in himself a deliberately thin skin, allowing the external world to enter him rather than steeling himself from it. This thin skin is his great gift — a gift repaid in the extraordinary sensitivity of his ethnography, teaching, and collegial relations. In his research, Abdellah explores everything phenomenologically, paying attention to the fine psychic and sociological details of encounters with the external world in ritual sacrifice, in religious pilgrimage, and in the development of authoritarian political form that has characterized the Middle East of the last century.
He is a Moroccan subject, not just in relation to the sovereign but more fundamentally, in relation to Islam and his life experience of crossing cultures, classes, and institutional contexts. He is fluent in three languages Arabic, French, and English and speaks two others Spanish and Berber. In Arabic he engages the community into which he was born and the larger Middle East, in French his childhood education in a Catholic missionary school and the intellectual community of his anthropological training, and in English the community of which Princeton is a part.
In the spoken word, his English is multivoiced. For example, when he gives a talk in English, unlike in Arabic or French, he usually has written it out.
But then he never reads out loud his English text; rather, he summarizes in his mind what he has written, and then in an oral register speaks a version of this written text. What goes on in the process is a series of mysterious, nondiscrete cognitive and perceptive operations, moving back and forth from written to oral and from Arabic and French to English.
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