By Tyler Martinson ’12

Northfield, Minnesota
Anthropology, Community and Global Health Concentration

During my study abroad, I focused on Morocco’s fascinating melting pot of different cultures— Amazigh, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, African and European—and the human rights issues woven throughout its history. My program focused on multiculturalism and human rights and also provided coursework in Modern Standard Arabic. Even so, language was a challenge as I strove for proficiency in both the standard dialect and Darija, the regional dialect, which was spoken on the street and in our host stays. Throwing French into the mix concocted a both frustrating and exhilarating stew of multilingualism.

I was able to travel freely, both alone and with my program, hiking in the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains, riding dromedaries, and watching the sun rise in the Merzouga Dunes. I traveled from the city of Tangier, which boasts both Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, to the southern occupied territory of the Western Sahara.

I spent the last three weeks conducting original ethnographic research with various medical practitioners in two urban centers in Morocco: Fez and Rabat. Field research about different healing practices in these areas involved medical practitioners at a pharmacy and clinic, professors of pharmacology and social medicine, a fqih (an expert in Islamic law, science and arts), custodians of healing shrines where saints had been interred, and an attar (herbalist and spice vendor). Most of my ethnographic data was drawn from conversations with the fqih, supplemented by formal ethnographic interviews, meetings and consultations with public health workers and professionals, as well as informal conversations with individuals about health, illness, and medicine. I wanted to learn how any given individual might navigate through a medically pluralistic society.

My semester in Morocco was a phenomenal experience and I highly recommend studying abroad to everyone I meet. This was my second experience living in a foreign country for an extended period—and this time I got credit for it.

February 3 2012

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