fanditha and sihuru: Social and Political Import of Muslim-dhivehi Knowledge Forms

Department or Program



Muslim-dhivehi inhabitants of the Maldives bold indigenous knowledge forms called fanditha and sihuru. These practices may loosely be categorized in English as “sorcery.” As a “native” anthropologist, I contend that both fanditha and sihuru practices function as sociopolitical critique. For individuals who believe in the causality of these practices, fanditha and sihuru have, respectively, productive and destructive potentialities in regards to the human body and psyche. Using an analytical framework that interprets these practices processually, I maintain that fanditha and sihuru have the potential to heal fractured social relationships. These practices attempt to fix the perceived material inequalities that may suddenly arise between kin members. Inflicting sihuru onto one’s kin makes them accountable for the changing sociality that one attributes to changing material conditions. Through an examination of the constructions of Muslim-dhivehi personhood and community, I discuss how violence in the form of sihuru engenders closer social relationships rather than animosity. I also argue that these indigenous knowledge forms, when they are disregarded in favor of western knowledge forms by state organizations and development agencies, have the potential to fracture sociopolitical relationships. This is a form of injustice by the state. This argument adds to the existing body of anthropological work on the implications of using emic and etic perspectives when two cultural streams converge. This thesis is an ethnography about Muslim-dhivehi fanditha and sihuru beliefs amongst some dhivehin to illustrate a fragment of the diversities and complexities that comprise the Maldives.

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First Advisor

Eames, Elizabeth

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

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Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

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