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Saharan Saints: Sacred Symbols or Empty Forms?

John Paul Mason
Anthropological Quarterly
Vol. 47, No. 4 (Oct., 1974), pp. 390-405
DOI: 10.2307/3316606
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3316606
Page Count: 16
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Saharan Saints: Sacred Symbols or Empty Forms?
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Abstract

Saints in a Libyan Sahara oasis are described and analyzed in the context of two opposing theories of society: 1) traditional Durkheimian sociology; and 2) the "eclectic dialectic," as represented in the work of the anthropologist Murphy (1971). Because the author has found elements in both theories which are not only useful but necessary for understanding the Oasis saints, he has set out to reconcile these divergent points of view. The results suggest that the Oasis holy men are akin to a photograph: what you see is the positive, although the negative is an integral part of every saint's emergence. The reason for this is that the lineage group members who create and sponsor holy men manipulate these complex supernatural forms in much the same way they deal with mortals.

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