Ayesha Maria Mualla

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Shiv Nadar U.

Grant number

Gr. 10711

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Mualla, Ayesha (Shiv Nadar U.) "The Study of the Social Life of Frankincense in Oman"

This ethnographic study examines the social life of frankincense (لُبَان) in the Sultanate of Oman. This research contributes to debates in the idea of objects having a social life. As Appadurai (1988) reminds us that persons and things are not distinct categories and each transaction surrounding an object is invested in properties of social relations. Thus, frankincense as a material entity becomes a metaphor to understand the entanglements of environment, migration, labour, and trade. Frankincense is an aromatic resin harvested from the Boswellia Sacra trees unique to a specific micro-climate in the Dhofar region located in the southern part of Oman. This research follows frankincense, a material object navigating multiple registers that are sensorial —haptic, olfactory and ethereal. Making of frankincense, a matter in formation, brings us to the possibilities of life and species entanglement. This research builds on contemporary debates on the study of the Anthropocene that look at the human-non human relations. By letting the material speak, this research attempts to give frankincense a place in anthropological inquiry outside of the usual discourse that limits its study to linear histories, or nationalism. The main themes in this study are material cultural, sensory studies, trans-regional migration and environmental ecology.