Observations on Gnawa healing in Morocco: Music, bodies and the circuit of capital | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2043-1015
  • E-ISSN: 2043-1023



Gnawa musicians in Morocco conduct ceremonies to heal a variety of maladies, and they receive payment. However, the way the payment is rendered turns it into a spiritual investment. First, the ill person stakes the ceremony, which then becomes a joint venture between the troupe, the ritual healer, and the person requesting healing. The ceremony is to return blessing in the form of material benefits in addition to healing. The point is not to get rich, but to meet daily needs through honest work that benefits the community. This broader approach is possible due to the open space created and maintained by the Gnawa troupe I worked with, a situation mirrored by other groups across the country, but also contradicted by examples of exploitation and exclusion, a kind of ‘neo-liberal Gnawa healing’ that is, indeed, all too frequent. But still the alternative persists. What is its rationale? This article argues that in seeking a holistic approach to treatment, Gnawa healers perform important transformations on Islamic ideologies of the body, including a ‘complementary dualism’ that itself complements ‘antagonistically’ dualist Enlightenment ideologies.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Gnawa; healing; neo-liberalism; performance; slavery; trance
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