Africa at Noon on October 16, 2013

The Marabout (Murabit) as Public Healer: The Cosmology of Corporeality and the Islamic Body Politic in Morocco

Ellen Amster
Associate Professor
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Time and Loca­tion

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI

Download Poster (pdf) 


Muslim pilgrims have long visited the shrines, graves, and bodies of “marabouts,” or Islamic saints, (murabit, “he who connects/binds,”) for healing from a variety of physical, mental, and social afflictions. In this paper, we explore through fieldwork, architecture, Sufi hagiography, and colonial ethnography how the Islamic saint in Morocco healed, by restoring God’s law (shari’a) to men in their individual bodies and the collective Islamic community.


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.