FWF Stand-alone Project P 28736, April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2021

Contact person: Gebhard Fartacek, Lorenz Nigst, Melanie Sindelar

Project homepage

The project focuses on stories about, and the discourses on, the phenomenon of reincarnation (Arabic taqammus), collected among the Druze population in the Middle East and Druze refugees in Europe respectively. According to the Druze belief system, every human soul migrates to the body of a newborn child at the moment of death.

Going beyond this general principle, there appears to be a common understanding among most Druzes that under certain conditions, individual persons may have memories of their previous life/lives. This phenomenon is called nutq (lit. “speaking”), which refers to accounts by young children speaking about their former lives. Druzes believe that such children sometimes may also be able to find their former families. The concomitant ethno-sociological consequences are not subject to well-defined customary rules or regulations but have to be dealt with discursively.

The collection and analysis of ethnographic data on which the project is based will follow the approach of case-reconstructive research. In its course, biographical-narrative and/or episodic interviews are conducted in different national contexts and social strata. With regard to (potential) indexical utterances by the interviewees and the epistemological basis in which the phenomenon of “speaking” children is grounded, the interviews are conducted primarily in Arabic, or more precisely, the Levantine vernacular.

It is a crucial feature of this project that it not only strives to gain a better (cultural and socio-anthropological, Islamological) understanding of the complex and multi-faceted phenomenon under discussion but also aims at building a corpus of relevant audio recordings that will constitute a separate collection within the Phonogrammarchiv’s holdings. Continuous methodological reflection of the research process and the systematic development of the available inventory of methods form a project-specific interface with the other research areas in the Phonogrammarchiv.

Research results

A list of the publications resulting from the project as well as other topic-relevant publications by the researchers involved can be found on the project webpage.

The book publication Druze Reincarnation Narratives: Previous Life Memories, Discourses, and the Construction of Identities edited by Gebhard Fartacek, will be presented to a broader public on Friday, 4 July 2022, at 4.00 pm (Austrian Academy of Sciences, main building):

PhA Research Forum #1
Das Prinzip der Wiedergeburt für eine nationalstaatlich segmentierte Minderheit im Nahen Osten.
Gudrun Harrer im Gespräch mit Gebhard Fartacek und Tobias Lang

Programme announcement (pdf, German)