Shifting Fieldsites

An Alternative Approach to Fieldwork in Transnational Sufism


  • Marta Dominguez Diaz Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations, Cambridge



anthropology of Islam, modern Sufism, Qādirīyah, Sufi Orders, Sufism twentieth century, transnational Sufism


Few of those who have undertaken fieldwork among members of Sufi Orders have openly discussed the challenges involved. The present article examines a number of issues which were encountered whilst carrying out ethnographic research among devotees of the transnational Q?diriyya. It argues that knowledge derived from ethnographical investigation is subjective and partial by nature, and that engaging with its resulting ambiguities and contradictions leads to a more nuanced, real, and less representational, perspective. This article explores certain themes: first, it examines how gender determined the scope of the research and circumscribed the possibilities of data collection. Second, it analyses some of the peculiarities involved in conducting multi-sited fieldwork in a transnational religious organization. Third, it raises specific methodological concerns with regard to the often transitory nature of membership of this ?ar?qa. Finally, it discusses how the present author coped with religious proselytization and its potential effects on the relationship between devotees and researcher.


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Author Biography

Marta Dominguez Diaz, Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations, Cambridge

Marta Dominguez Diaz is an anthropologist of religion who specializes in the study of transnational Sufi Orders. She is currently a junior research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations, in Cambridge. Her research interests include Islamic rituals, North- African Sufism and European Islam. After finishing her undergraduate in History at the University of Barcelona, she moved to London, where she undertook a MA in Islamic Societies and Cultures and a PhD Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her PhD explored female religious identities in the transnational Order Qādiriyya by looking at the ways in which religious discourses are corporeally endorsed by female devotees of this Order. The study proposed a comparative perspective between various of its Moroccan and Western European enclaves. She is working on turning the thesis into a monograph and has published a number of articles on the topic.


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How to Cite

Dominguez Diaz, M. (2012). Shifting Fieldsites: An Alternative Approach to Fieldwork in Transnational Sufism. Fieldwork in Religion, 6(1), 64–82.




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