This article explores the paradoxical popularity of "non-Islamic" healing practices and spirit mediumship in the Muslim heartland of Saudi Arabia by examining the role of the hajj in the lives of contemporary bori practitioners in northern Nigeria. While bori adepts participate in the pub-lic acquisition of consumer goods and symbolic capital that makes the hajj such a marker of prestige throughout the Muslim world, their unconventional activities also point to a largely covert form of circulation in which specialized goods, services, and knowledge are carried from Nigeria for consumption by an eager Saudi clientele. Their stories belie dominant interpretations of the hajj as a globalizing force which serves to unify Islamic beliefs and practice and ensure progressive conformity to a "modern" center by a less developed and less Islamically orthodox periphery. In the case of northern Nigeria, access to the hajj for a broader segment of the population has created, on the contrary, the opportunity for some pilgrims to reinforce and strengthen very local Hausa conceptions of Islam in both material and symbolic ways. In so doing, "'yan bori transform their own identities and status in subtle but empowering ways, and sustain the dynamic subcultural networks of bori back in Nigeria." The paper thus demonstrates how the modern hajj has multiplied the available symbolic resources with which Muslims throughout the globe fashion Islamic identities and mold communities of faith.


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pp. 11-40
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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