The djinn is an invisible spirit with a will of its own that may hide in the bathroom, lurk in dark alleys or under staircases to seep through the pores of its victims and possess them. Djinns have long been an explanation for illness and misfortune and an excuse for unconventional behaviour.
Barbara Drieskens has conducted extensive research among lower-middle class families in Cairo today to see how modern Egyptians make a place for these ancient beings in their busy lives. She recounts the impact of djinns on both men and women, as these spirits are not restricted (or do not restrict themselves) to the domestic world of women.
Given that djinns can be anywhere – within the body of the possessed or anywhere outside them – Drieskens pays particular attention to concepts of person and space. She also explores the importance of storytelling in Egyptian society and recounts first-hand experiences of djinns and possession in this unique ethnographic study.
About the Author
Barbara Drieskens is an urban anthropologist and an assistant visiting professor at the American University of Beirut. Her present research in Beirut focuses on the issues of freedom and social control. She is the author of Living with Djinns: Understanding and Dealing with the Invisible in Cairo, and co-editor of Cities of the South: Citizenship and Exclusion in the 21st Century, both by Saqi Books.
‘A very readable book. Drieskens eschews tedious jargon and opts for engagingly straightforward prose ... I could easily imagine using this book in an undergraduate course on the anthropology of the Middle East.’
Middle East Journal