Saquib Usman

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9746

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Usman, Saquib A., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Sensation and the Production of Space in Mauritanian Frontiers,' supervised by Dr. Andrew Shryock

SAQUIB A. USMAN, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Sensation and the Production of Space in Mauritanian Frontiers,’ supervised by Dr. Andrew Shryock. This research focuses on processes of place making rooted in society through ethnography in and out of Dali Gimba, a village in the Saharan hinterlands between Mauritania and Mali, renowned for the plurality of its villagers who are genealogically tied through congenital blindness, many of whom possess extrasensory compensations used for social functions. The phase of research funded by the Wenner-Gren foundation involved engaged ethnography starting November 2018 to October 2019 and hovered around three foci: Firstly, it analyzes the sensory dynamics in domains such as the interactions and local face-to-face communications in the village, involving blind and sighted participants, practices of knowledge transmission, and local histories that inform the semiotic production of blindness and sight. Secondly, drawing upon extensive interactions with blind water dowser, this ethnography investigates wells as a critical site of mediation at the nexus of various processes of historical, economic, and cultural production. More generally, it studies the circulation of water as a vital substance crucially involved in the mediation of social, material, and divine relationships in a society where life is especially characterized by the precarity of water. Lastly, the research examines the processes that lead remote places like Dali Gimba to draw the gaze and ambitions of strangers, journalists, developers, epidemiologists, and even anthropologists through representational practices across local, regional, national, transnational, and global scales.