Ariela Marcus-Sells presents on devotional prayer in the Saharan Desert  

An assistant professor of religious studies and Distinguished Emerging Scholar, Marcus-Sells presented the paper at Harvard Divinity School on Sept. 15. 

Ariela Marcus-Sells, assistant professor of religious studies and Distinguished Emerging Scholar, presented a paper at Harvard Divinity School at a workshop entitled “West Africa and the Maghreb: Reassessing Intellectual Connections in the 21st Century” on Friday, Sep t. 15, 2018.

Ariela Marcus Sells – Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Distinguished Emerging Scholar
This workshop was convened by Ousmane Kane – the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professorship of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School – as part of a multi-year initiative to bring together scholars from around the world working on the history of Islam in Africa across all disciplines.

Marcus-Sells’ paper, entitled “Technologies of Devotion in the works of Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kunti,” analyzed the supplicatory prayers attributed to a Sufi Muslim scholar from the Southern Saharan desert whose work in the late-eighteenth century greatly influenced the development of Muslim and Sufi intellectual traditions in the greater region.

Marcus-Sells’ paper argued that close attention to historic manuscript texts intended as devotional aids to ritual practice allows historians to reconstruct the relationship between devotional practice, cosmological and metaphysical thought, and Arabic manuscript production among pre-modern Muslim communities.

Ultimately, her paper demonstrated that Sidi al-Mukhtar drew on devotional aids circulating in the region during the eighteenth century, but reshaped these traditions in response to his own specific, Saharan context.