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Exploring the life of amulets in Palestine

On the 1st of December Marcela A. Garcia Probert successfully defended a doctoral thesis and graduated.

M.A. Garcia Probert
01 December 2021
Leiden Repository

Dr. Taufiq Canaan gathered many amulets from 1905 to 1947 in rural areas and towns of Palestine. Among the amulets he collected, the largest group is at Birzeit University and it is known as the Tawfik Canaan Collection of Palestinian Amulets. It contains a wide variety of objects, a unique group of uninscribed amulets, and extensive documentation of all the items. In my thesis I conclude that the amulets in this Collection do not only deserve our attention as museum objects, but as living objects that have a life and have gone through different phases. These phases became clear by analysing Canaan’s collecting process through the years in relation to his multifaceted life as a modern physician, anthropologist, folklorist, collector, social figure, and political activist.  In every chapter I explore and contextualise each phase and highlight the amulets’ functions in the networks in which they circulated; from healing and protective remedies used by Canaan's patients in the first half of the 20th century, to becoming tokens of a Palestinian national identity when they were catalogued and exhibited in 1998. The importance of this research lies in shifting the focus from the Collection as a unit to the objects in it, which discloses the social, cultural and political conditions of the manufacture, use, trade, ethnographic study, and collection of amulets.

Promotor: prof. dr. P.M. Sijpesteijn

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