In the City of the Marabouts: Islamic Culture in West Africa by Geert  Mommersteeg
156 pages, $24.95 list
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In the City of the Marabouts
Islamic Culture in West Africa
From the opening pages, amidst the throes of Ramadan during the hottest and driest season in Mali, Dutch ethnographer Geert Mommersteeg welcomes readers into the religious culture of a historic city uniquely filled with Islamic scholars known as marabouts. This finely crafted English-language translation provides a remarkable contribution to the study of Islamic practices and beliefs observed in local contexts in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the interrelationship between public and secret knowledge of maraboutage in everyday reality.

This inviting personal narrative of an anthropologist's long-term fieldwork in Djenné—for centuries a center of West African culture, scholarship, and architecture—is full of valuable methodological insights. Mommersteeg, with unassuming honesty, becomes absorbed in the knowledge of the Holy Word and slowly enters the closed world of religious practice in which marabouts serve as intermediaries between God and their clients. While marabouts do not claim to be all-knowing, they do know how God can be addressed most effectively, which amulets are the most powerful, and which alms are best for nudging the future in the right direction.
"The highly accessible style of this book makes it a delightful read for anyone with an interest in West Africa, Islam and magic." —Trevor H. J. Marchand, Africa

An exemplary narrative. Not to be missed." —Christian Eboulé, Cultures Sud
Table of Contents
1. Going Thirsty in Djenné
2. Two Kinds of Knowledge
3. The Qur'an and Other Books
4. Invoking God
5. The Future Holds Secrets
6. The Milkmaid and the Amulet
7. Amulets
8. Beneficent Force and Almsgiving
Epilogue: Sand and Time
Postscript: Djenné in 2007