Materiality, Rituals and Senses: The Dynamic World of Lived Shi‘i Islam

Conference on Shi‘i Materiality, Rituals and Senses

Swedish Research Institute, Istanbul, Turkey | 19 – 21 October 2022


The team of the Alterumma project at Lund University are delighted to announce that the in person conference, titled ‘Materiality, Rituals and Senses: The Dynamic World of Lived Shi‘i Islam’, is taking place in Istanbul hosted by the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul from 19 to 21 October 2022.

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).

AlterUmma is a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council (Grant agreement No. 724557). The project team includes Principal Investigator (Prof. Oliver Scharbrodt), five postdoctoral researchers, and one doctoral student. Together, we examine transformations of Shi‘i Islam in the Middle East and Europe since the 1950s.

Conference Booklet

This conference is funded through a research grant of the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant agreement No. 724557).


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