Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationMichigan, Ann Arbor, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9746
Approve DateOctober 23, 2018
Project TitleUsman, 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
Preliminary abstract: How is a place sensed? This project seeks to ask how place-making and regional connectivity work at the level of sensory experiences through ethnographic research in Mauritania via participant observation and analyses of interactions among blind and sighted interlocuters, various historical archives, and sensory practices of mobility and ritual. After researching sociopolitical and historical processes of sensation and place-making in the capital, the bulk of my study will take place in two adjacent villages located in the southwest margins of Mauritania. Although this ‘place’ is remembered for its ancient history, it is also regionally known for the plurality of its villagers who are genealogically blind from birth, yet also possess mystical seeing abilities employed in the building of wells. By analyzing the sensory features of interactions, discourses, communications, histories, environments and movements involved in place-making practices of blind and sighted interlocuters, this project hopes to provide thickly-textured comparative analyses of concrete sensory practices involved in the social production of spaces and places that are marked by regional connectivity. Moreover, this approach invokes a reflexive stance where studying the emplacement of others doubles on the question of how an ethnographic place is made in the first place and promises to shed insight on the possibilities of anthropological knowledge. This project uniquely lies at the intersection of discourse on place-making in spaces marked by regional connectivity, semiotics, and sensory studies and as such, it hopes to imagine new horizons for social theory in contemporary contexts.