Alice Catanzaro

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Anthropology (2022 cohort)

My research explores how Muslims navigate living an ethical life through seeking expert guidance in the form of fatwas (non-binding Islamic legal opinions) in multi-mediated environments like Morocco. It addresses the intersection between the anthropology of ethics and media studies. I will conduct fieldwork in Sefrou, Morocco addressing state radio and television fatwas in addition to in-person oral and telephone fatwas at the local Sefrou Religious Council to understand the interplay between multiple forms of mediation and hierarchical Islamic guidance. Most importantly, I will work specifically with questioners to determine the importance of these answers, their use, and the mix of guidance they consume. In light of the variety of fatwa ‘platforms,’ my research seeks to answer a number of questions related to the relationship between the media of communication and the processes of production and consumption of state fatwas. How does this process contribute to or challenge existing anthropological literature on mass mediation and forms of mediated Islamic guidance, both hierarchical and non-hierarchical? What kind of questions are being asked to different media? What kind of decisions are Sefrouis making when they approach one medium over another? How does the eventual answer impact their lives? Ultimately, what does seeking expert guidance mean in an everyday context?

Prior to starting my DPhil, I completed a MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford where I studied the intersections between early newspaper fatwas and questions of science and the unseen. I received a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. I have spent extended time in Morocco conducting independent research through a Fulbright grant into the creation of modern Islamic scholarly authority at institutions of higher religious education. I also worked as a research assistant, conducting fieldwork for multiple American anthropologists studying topics including spiritual security and youth Sufism.