Conference “Materiality, rituals and the senses. The dynamic world of lived Shi‘i Islam”

19 – 21 October 2022, Swedish Research Institute, Istanbul. Download the Program

This conference explores the material, ritual and sensory forms of expression that constitute and shape the experiences of Shi‘i Muslims in diverse geographies and different time periods. It therefore seeks to uncover the dynamics of lived Shi‘i Islam and its varied temporal and spatial dimensions. Yet how do we conceptualize these facets of Shi‘i cultural production and materiality without essentializing and homogenizing Shi‘i belief and practice?

The conference seeks to probe conceptions of culture in the study of Shi‘i Islam while equally considering the relevance of history, politics, form, meaning, and context for understanding Shi‘i lived religion. For instance, how do material and sensory expressions of Shi‘i devotion and ritual practice constitute different aesthetic formations and cultural articulations of Shi‘i Islam? What role do artforms and material cultures play in the facilitation and negotiation of Shi‘i ideas, norms and ways of life? And how do forms of cultural production and materiality of Shi‘i Islam foster communal identities and relations of solidarity transcending boundaries of time and place while also articulating and promoting social and political values and worldviews?

Papers at the conference interrogate, problematize, and question these theoretical debates through empirically or historically informed research. The keynote will be a joint lecture by Prof Karen Ruffle (University of Toronto) and Prof Babak Rahimi (University of California in San Diego). In addition, a number of films on Shi‘i ritual practices will be shown with a special screening of ‘The Sky Wept for 40 Days’ on the Arab‘ in processions in Iraq by Dr Sabrina Mervin (CNRS, IREMAM).