Featured HRAF Global Scholar: Kamal Feriali

Global Scholars Program

HRAF Global Scholar: Kamal Feriali
Title: Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University Affiliation: Université Hassan II de Casablanca
Research Topic: Human Diversity, Anthropology of Religion, Environmental Anthropology, and Human Rights

HRAF Global Scholar Kamal Feriali

Kamal Feriali is currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Université Hassan II de Casablanca. He studied English Literature and Linguistics in Morocco before making a major career switch to anthropology after a Fulbright Award for graduate study at the University of Florida. He opted for a four-field track and his training spanned both cultural and biological anthropology. He received a PhD (2009) after completing a dissertation on Moroccan music-induced possession trance and its implications for anthropology and allied disciplines. His doctoral work was supported in part by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Sociology departments in Morocco have flourished since the turn of the century, but anthropology is absent as an independent discipline. Most Moroccan sociology is strongly particularistic, done by Moroccans about Moroccans with limited auto-critical reflexivity. The crying need of Moroccan social science students is successful disengagement from ethnocentrism through appreciation of their belonging to a larger and diverse human family. HRAF significantly helps Kamal advance this goal in his teaching thanks to HRAF’s massive corpus of well-organized data that can be easily filtered to obtain cross-cultural information needed to supplement teaching about specific aspects of human behavior. Kamal marshals his findings from HRAF in his lectures to stimulate thinking about human diversity.

As a lifelong learner himself, Kamal also benefits from HRAF’s tools to continuously reexamine and finetune standard textbook claims that he too had internalized as an anthropology student in the United States. Kamal poses several thought-provoking questions such as:

Does comparative data really back up the idea that hunter-gatherer societies are for the most part truly egalitarian, acephalous, and conflict-averse? Is polyandry really that uncommon relative to polygyny? Is it true that big gods came to be only in the context of social complexity?

The power of eHRAF tools first came to Kamal’s attention when he used a 2005 HRAF-based statistical study on child corporal punishment by Ember & Ember in his Anthropology and Human Rights course. This course introduces Moroccan students to the complex dilemmas surrounding cultural relativism and the universal doctrine of human rights.

Kamal hoped to have eHRAF access but was deterred by the cost until he discovered the 12-month eHRAF Global Scholars program and was grateful for the award. He hopes to eventually convince his university to subscribe as an institution. Kamal enthusiastically supports HRAF’s mission and appeals for making eHRAF access as affordable as possible in lower income countries where anthropology is a burgeoning discipline.

Kamal remains one of Morocco’s very few formally trained anthropologists. He is primarily interested in the anthropology of religion, environmental anthropology, and anthropology’s potential for helping advance human rights and democracy-building.

HRAF is honored to feature Kamal Feriali as one of our HRAF Global Scholars for 2024. We wish him continued success with his research.

To support funding priorities such as the HRAF Global Scholars program and the development of our open access resources (Explaining Human Culture, Teaching eHRAF, and Introducing Cross-Cultural Research), please consider making a tax-deductible donation.