Duma Doyal Ci Maam Maryaama
(I Will Never Have Enough Grandmother Mary)
Anthropology Senior Thesis by Jamie O'Leary '19
This ethnography explores the gendered and multidirectional relationships between interiors and bodies in Daara Yacine, a Sufi daara (Quranic school) in Senegal. Beliefs and daily practices in the daara center around Maryaama (the Quranic Mary), who serves as proof that women are superior to men and whose example is performatively embodied by all Daara Yacine students. This thesis discusses the nuances and complexities of gendered interior/exterior dichotomies through its analyses of the community’s gendered division of labor, the ongoing story of Maryaama, the sometimes-contradictory relationships between gendered interiors and sexed exteriors, and the embodied and affective practices of song and dance. In Daara Yacine, boundaries between interior, body, and social world are drawn and complicated, their interstices becoming sites of both incongruity and harmony.
Film Description: Dance and music are central to study, worship, and life in Daara Yacine, and both have aesthetic and affective charges that cannot be adequately conveyed in writing. Therefore, I decided to create these three short ethnographic films to enrich and enliven the written portion of my thesis. Each film is a song; the first two were written by the community’s leader to celebrate Maryaama, and the third gives glory and praise to Yalla (Allah). These films were created alongside my interlocutors, whose artistic and filmic decisions shape the films just as much – if not more – than mine do.
Alongside the thesis’ fourth chapter, these short films explore the roles that dance and music play in the processes of embodied Quranic study and of praising, knowing, and becoming Maryaama. They also work to convey the temporality and repetitions of the daara and to audio-visually explore the larger themes of my thesis - gendered relationships between interior and exterior, affect, performativity, and embodiment. Above all, these films aim to facilitate your own transcultural, embodied engagement with the bodies, interiorities, and harmonies of the daara.
Acknowledgments: My heartfelt thanks to Prof. Jeff Himpele, the VizE Lab, and the Class of ‘55 fund for making these films possible.