Of jinn theories and germ theories: translating microbes, bacteriological medicine, and Islamic law in Algeria

Clark, H.-L. (2021) Of jinn theories and germ theories: translating microbes, bacteriological medicine, and Islamic law in Algeria. Osiris, 36, pp. 64-85. (doi: 10.1086/713657)

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Focusing on colonial Algeria ca. 1890 to 1940, this article explores what Muslim intellectuals and ordinary people learned about microbes and how they responded to bacteriological medicine. Many Algerians feared invisible spirits (jinn) and sought the healing powers of saints and exorcists. Was it then permitted for Muslims to use French treatments and follow Pasteurian rules of hygiene? Specialists in Islamic law, other intellectuals, and unlettered villagers showed a persistent concern with these and other questions in the wake of colonial conquest and violence in Algeria, as novel techniques, therapeutics, and forms of epistemic authority were introduced, and new visions of religious orthodoxy and national revival were formulated. Examining writings across a range of genres and formats—including a treatise of independent juristic reasoning (ijtihad), questions and answers prepared by a mufti, popular petitions, newspaper articles, advertisements, poetry, and a cartoon—this article argues that Islamic tradition and law were integral to the emerging science and culture of microbes in early twentieth-century Algeria. While Islamic reformists sought to displace jinn theories of illness, other Algerian intellectuals and colonial officials found it convenient to explain germs in terms of jinn. Both French and Muslim elite men sought to combine religious law with hygienic advice to advance competing hegemonic projects targeted at the Muslim family, thereby attempting to displace women’s jinn-based practices.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clark, Dr Hannah-Louise
Authors: Clark, H.-L.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Osiris
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN (Online):1933-8287
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 History of Science Society
First Published:First published in Osiris 36: 64-85
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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