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Gettysburg College

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Oman: Political Culture and Economic Development in the Gulf

Abstract

As a student who came to Oman knowing very little about the Arab world or Islam, I can safely say that my knowledge has increased tenfold. Upon entrance to the country in January 2011, I had no idea what my independent research study would end up addressing. Upon first hearing of the concept of the evil eye and all it relates to, my interest peaked. I began to think that this topic was interesting enough to command a month’s attention from me. This all changed during a weekend trip to Salalah, in the south of Oman, which included a lecture regarding witchcraft in Dhofar. I was so fascinated throughout the lecture that I was almost jumping out of my seat. This was by far the most interesting phenomenon I had heard about since being in the Middle East, and I needed to know more. I immediately decided to switch my topic to the study of witchcraft and the supernatural in Oman, and I can say without a doubt that I have no regrets.

As I began reviewing literature regarding witchcraft and spirit possession, I noticed that none of the articles took the threat of the supernatural seriously. Authors dismissed the validity of these claims by explaining it through histories of slavery or colonialism, as well as through gender roles in society. As a Westerner I do see the validity in this type of analysis, but I also think that it is imperative to view the topic of the supernatural from the perspective of a person who has been reared in a society in which such things are a very real threat to one’s well being. These people do not doubt the reality of the possibility of harm from the supernatural, and therefore analysis should take this into consideration. While attaching historical and societal explanations to the origin of supernatural stories is important, I will also be discussing how the presence of supernatural forces influence peoples’ daily lives, considering that these things are a real, concrete threat to the well being of individuals in this society.

Disciplines

Cultural History | Folklore | Islamic World and Near East History | Place and Environment | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology

 

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