Rethinking the anthropological enterprise in light of Muslim ontologies: Secular vestiges, spiritual epistemologies, vertical knowledge

Fabio Vicini, Lili Di Puppo


Because of the difficulty anthropology continues to face in relinquishing its secular vestiges, field encounters with not-immediately-perceptible reality, the realm of God, the invisible, and the otherworldly have usually been removed or deemed insignificant in anthropological accounts. In dialogue with the ontological turn and other recent developments in anthropology, in this article we introduce the special section on Muslim ontologies by advocating for a more profound reconsideration of the role that the encounter with other modes of knowing in the field might have for the discipline. Proposing to include transcendence, the divine, and invisible realities in a reflection on anthropological knowledge, we foreground vertical knowledge as a mode of approaching knowledge that centers on the human ability to transform and experience the self in ways that also correspond to different modalities of perceiving reality.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/729500