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Marchand, Trevor Hugh James (1999) Moulding Minaret Makers: A Study of Apprenticeship and Spatial Cognition With Traditional Builders in Sana'a, Yemen. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Moulding Minaret Makers is a study of traditional building practices in Sanaca, Yemen, with a focus on a highly reputed team of craftsmen who have specialised since the early 1980's in the construction of mosque minarets. Based on thirteen months of fieldwork during which I laboured on two minaret projects, my research addresses the nature of the construction materials and methods employed; the organisation of labour and the social relations between the builders; and, most importantly, the manner in which expert trade knowledge was inculcated in certain young labourers in order that they might become Master Builders and effectively re-produce the craft. The thesis is presented in four chapters which are preceded by an introduction to the physical and historic context of Sanda, and to the contemporary state of apprenticeship and craft in the region. In the first chapter, I consider the mosque minaret as an architectural form and explore the relation of verticality with expressions of power and piety, and investigate the historic sources and inconsistencies of the Zaydi Muslim's aversion to towering minaret structures. Chapters two to four are each divided into two sections. The first and shorter section provides a technical description of the various stages of erecting a minaret, and the second constitutes an analysis of the teaching-learning processes involved at the different stages in the training of a traditional builder. A correlation is made between the hierarchical stages of becoming proficient in the trade and the three recognised levels in achieving Islamic spiritual enlightenment: Islam, iman and ihsan. In these chapters, I draw upon philosophy-of-mind debates in order to develop an understanding of the disciplined 'thinking body' of the labourer; the refinement of the apprentice's spatial cognition and judgment through the act of 'making'; and the cultivated focus of the Master Builder's intentionality.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:21

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