RELIGION, IDENTITY AND ETHNO-RELIGIOUS BOUNDARIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Contact person: Gebhard Fartacek

This research project is based on former investigations (local pilgrimage sites and ethno-religious segmentations in Greater Syria; stories and discourses on the Jinn and afflictions by the Evil Eye; epistemological foundations and rituals of personal and collective conflict resolution in Northern Arabia; possession and ethnicity in the Arabian Gulf). The project focuses on imagined and lived belongings and segmentations in the Middle East. A central concern are taboos, rituals and symbols of ethno-religious demarcation. Based on structural and constructivist models of explanation, recent modes of identity-building will be analyzed; moreover, local strategies in coping with uncertainties in the context of recent socio-cultural transformations will be investigated.

The empirical basis of this area of research is consituted by a systematic review of the Middle Eastern collections at the Phonogrammarchiv (oral traditions) that are relevant to the topic, accompanied by a thorough analysis of relevant written sources and ethnological field research based on qualitative hypothesis generation.

On the whole, the project is committed to the goal of contextualizing and expanding the Phonogrammarchiv’s MENA-related collections. In the spirit of recent approaches in audio-visual anthropology it will also pursue unconventional methods of ethnographic data gathering and in this way contribute to current methodological discussions.