Blindness and Water Divination in the Mauritanian Sahel


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This research presents an ethnography rooted in a village located in Mauritania renowned for the predominant inherited blindness of its inhabitants. By considering the interpretive processes that make blindness as a sign of difference and investigating its symbolic and historical dimensions alongside everyday multi-sensorial interactions, this project not only offers new possibilities for understanding blindness, but also reframes the concept of “sight” and reflects on the problems and potentials of doing an ethnography of blind worlds. Secondly, it draws from intimate interactions living with a blind water diviner to understand the site of the well and the role of water as a “vital substance” involved in the mediation of kin, social, and material relationships formed in arid Saharan environments.