Eunuchs and Sacred Boundaries in Islamic Society
The figure of the eunuch in non-Western cultures has long been an object of mystery and mystification to the West. This thought-provoking ... Show synopsis The figure of the eunuch in non-Western cultures has long been an object of mystery and mystification to the West. This thought-provoking interdisciplinary work goes beyond sensationalism and stereotypes to offer a sensitive reconstruction of the historical role of the eunuch in Islam. In doing so, Eunuchs and Sacred Boundaries in Islamic Society offers an original and path-breaking exploration into some of the most fundamental aspects of Islamic religion, society, and culture. Shaun Marmon describes how the eunuch as a category of person embodied ambiguity and played a crucial role in premodern Islamic society as both the guardian and mediator of critical thresholds of moral and physical space in the household, in the palace, and in the tomb. Making use of techniques from literary analysis, social history and anthropology, she brings together a wide array of sources ranging from literary works, historical chronicles, biographies, pilgrimage diaries, travelers' accounts, and previously unexamined archival material. Through Marmon's account, the "sacred" eunuchs of Medina become historical guides into uncharted dimensions of Islamic ritual, political symbolism, social order, gender, and time. This fascinating study will be of interest to scholars and students of gender studies, ritual and culture studies, and Islamic cultural history and religion.