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AbstractThis thesis is an ethnographic study of Muslim communities in Oran, a coastal city in the North-West region of Algeria. It is concerned with how the public presence of Sufi orders - notably rituals, parties, festivals and conferences - contributes to the nation-building process. It begins by looking at the Algerian state’s religious policy, exploring the limits of political legitimacy by analysing the state’s attempts to define national Islam and to associate it with the Sufi, mystical tradition. It presents the state’s ambiguous relationship with Sufi brotherhoods and explores the role played by religion in national projects of modernity. By examining people’s experiences of “baraka”, I argue that a new understanding of spiritual power, as a combination of transcendental and immanent forces, brings us to reconsider God-humans relations in our analyses of secularism. In this perspective, I show that the community’s social activities derive from the harmonious flow of divine forces in the city, and argue that the power of political rituals like presidential visits in mausoleums, and Muslim celebrations like Saints-day festivals, emerge from a blend of divine and popular energy. Nations, like religion, need to be ‘mediated’, and this thesis demonstrates religion’s ability to invoke immanent power that is potentially foundational for a fused political-religious imagination. This work thus, is also an exploration of tensions and movements between immanence and transcendence.
Joassin, Thomas (2020) Ethics and politics of Algerian Sufi brotherhoods. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).