Tag Archives: Pakistan

A photo exhibition by Omar Kasmani, Paris, CEIAS-EHESS

The red between black and white

Special photo exhibition, EHESS, main hall

15 September-15 October 2010

MIFS, All rights reserved

Omar Kasmani, a PhD student in Social Anthropology at Freie Universität (Berlin), is also an artist and photographer. We are very thankful to him that he accepted to contribute while featuring a photo exhibition: “The reMIFS, All rights reservedd between black and white” (see posters).

He chose images capturing the various aspects of Sehwan Sharif in Sindh, including people (faqîrs, ascetics, women and eunuchs), events (`urs, muharram), as well as ritual practices (dhammâl, charagi, ghusl) and ceremonies (nawchandi, rajabi). Around 30 photographs, mixing coloured images with black and white photos, were displayed in the main hall of the EHESS during the conference and for several weeks afterwards.

The artist’s statement is:

“My work questions the ‘black and white’ images of the ‘practising’ Muslim. Devoid of nuances, it is often imagined in contrasting tropes of uncritical submission to, or outright rejection of, religious tradition. Practices at the shrine of the ‘red’ saint in southern Pakistan highlight an inventive vocabulary of negotiation between local devotion and translocal agency giving rise to new forms of religiosity. Far from constructions of a fixed, homogenous and universal Islam, referred to invariably in the singular, with the capital I, my encounters in Sehwan sharif reveal the dynamic, heterogenous and plural capacities of ‘lived islams’.”

Some of the photos displayed at the exhibition can be consulted on the author’s website.


International conference, 23-24 September 2010, CEIAS-EHESS

International conference

Shrines, Pilgrimages and Wanderers in Muslim South Asia

Venue: CEIAS, EHESS, 54 Boulevard Raspail, 75006, Paris

Convenors: Michel Boivin & Rémy Delage


Thursday, 23 September 2010

9h-9h30: Welcoming of the participants

9h30-10h: Welcome address by Blandine Ripert, Director of CEIAS, EHESS-CNRS, and introduction by Michel Boivin (CNRS-CEIAS-MIFS) and Rémy Delage (CNRS-CEIAS-CSH-MIFS)

Session 1: Figures of wandering ascetics through history

During the first session, three contributors propose to analyze how the qalandari figure has been formed over time, using a large corpus of vernacular written sources mainly in Persian language, and how this movement relates to other mystical branches of South Asian Islam.

Chair: Catherine Servan Schreiber (CNRS-CEIAS)

10h-10h20: Alexandre Papas (CNRS-CETOBA), Vagrancy and pilgrimage according to the Sufi Qalandari path

10h20-10h40: Michel Boivin (CNRS-CEIAS-MIFS), Qalandar-s and Qalandarî-s: Antinomianism as a changing concept in the Indus Valley

10h40-11h: Discussion and debate

11h-11h30: Coffee break

11h30-11h50: Mojan Membrado (INALCO), Is there a connection between the Qalandars and the Ahl-e Haqq order?

11h50-12h30: Discussion and debate

Session 2: The saints’ charisma and conflicting representations of sainthood

The four papers reflect the multiple meanings of rituals that are performed in and around Sufi shrines, and which ultimately reflect the continuing success of these pilgrimages. The tension between the expression of emotions and the involvement of institutions in mediating that expression is measured in different ways.

Chair: Françoise ‘Nalini’ Delvoye (EPHE)

14h-14h20: Delphine Ortis (EHESS-MIFS), How discourses construct figures of ‘normalised holiness’

14h20-14h40: Omar Kasmani (Free University of Berlin-MIFS), Rearranging Gender: The question of spiritual authority amongst two women intercessors of Sehwan Sharif

14h40-15h: Discussion and debate

15h-15h30: Tea break

15h30-15h50: Mikko Viitamäki (University of Helsinki & Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), Paris), Entertaining and ecstatic. Poetics and emotions in musical gatherings of a Sufi shrine

15h50-16h10: Ute Falasch (Humboldt University, Berlin), Managing a shrine inhabited by a living saint- the dargâh of “Zinda” Shâh Madâr

16h10-16h30: Discussion and debate

18h: Cocktail and exhibition


Friday, 24 September 2010

Session 3: Pilgrimages, the city and the making of ritual spaces

The question is here about how localities, towns or cities have been structured over time by the ritual activity generated by pilgrimages but also by various actors or social groups competing for exerting social power and religious authority locally.

Chair: Thierry Zarcone (CNRS-GSRL)

9h30-9h50: Rémy Delage (CNRS-CSH-MIFS), A sociological reading of ritual processions: the case study of Sehwan Sharif in Central Sindh (Pakistan)

9h50-10h10: Yves Ubelmann (DAFA-MIFS), The shrine of La`l Shahbâz Qalandar and its urban surrounding: politics, urbanism and religion

10h10-10h30: Discussion and debate

10h30-11h: Coffee break

11h-11h20: Muhammad Mubeen (CEIAS-EHESS), The shrine and the Chishtis of Pakpattan (Pakistan): A historical analysis

11h20-12h: Jürgen Schaflechner (SAI, Heidelberg University), Moving through meaning: The pilgrimage of Hing Laj Devi in Pakistan, followed by the screening of a 17mn documentary film “Agneyatirtha Hinglaj”

12h-12h30: Discussion and debate

Session 4: Pilgrimage politics and Sufi shrines policies

Pilgrimages can be envisaged as “places” of politics in that they articulate on the one hand social and ritual activity, and on the other, competing discourses, secular and religious, tinged with different ideologies, and matrix of issues of power and domination.

Chair: Alka Patel (University of California, Irvine)

14h-14h20: Kashif Sherwani (CEIAS-EHESS), Maududi on Shrines and Sufism or the building of a new Islamic orthodoxy

14h20-14h40: Alix Philippon (University of Provence), An ambiguous and contentious politicization of Sufi shrines and pilgrimages in Pakistan

14h40-15h: Discussion and debate

15h-15h30: Tea break

15h30-15h50: Mauro Valdinoci (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy), Dead saints or living souls? Contested pilgrimages to Sufi shrines in Hyderabad (India)

15h50-16h10: Uzma Rehman (University of Copenhaguen), Spiritual power and ‘Threshold’ identities: the mazars of Saiyid Pir Waris Shah and Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

16h10-16h30: Discussion and debate

Keynote address

16h30-17h: Pnina Werbner (Keele University, UK), Transnationalism and regional cults: the dialectics of Sufism in the plurivocal Muslim world

Book: Journal issue on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Outre Terre. Revue Européenne de Géopolitique, n°24, Afghanistan/Pakistan = Viêt-Nam + Somalie?, Paris Académie Européenne de Géopolitique, 2010, 445 p.

A dense issue of a journal specialized in “geopolitics”, Outre Terre, is devoted to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a theme reminiscent of the concept of “Af-Pak” coined by the US army. The editor nonetheless asserts in the first paper on the Durand line that it would be more relevant to use “Pakaf” (p. 9). The reader should, however, not stop at the enigmatic equation which works as a title. The volume gives a valuable insight into the different provinces of Pakistan, and the different features – cultural and others – of each of them. With numerous coloured maps, esxcellent articles are side by side with other more superficial papers. But although the papers based on factual analysis are numerous, there are also salient studies by confirmed scholars like Mariam Abou Zahab or Ahmed Rashid. The balance between such studies and factual reports is nonetheless not always convincing.

Michel Boivin


More infos


MA dissertation: Interdisciplinarity and Research in Social Sciences

Sohail Bawani, Integrating Interdisciplinarity in research and teaching/learning at higher educational level in Pakistan: exploring the case of Sehwan Interdisciplinary Project (SIP), MA thesis in Sociology, University of Karachi , 20 July 2010.

“This qualitative case study seeks to explore ways of integrating interdisciplinarity at the higher educational level in Pakistan, with special reference to illustrate viable moves for policy and practices in the area of research and teaching/learning. With this aim, this research provides an indepth analysis of the Sehwan Interdisciplinary Project (SIP) as a case in action of integrating interdisciplinarity to draw key empirical insights for theory and practice in Pakistani academia.

The research focuses on examining the meaning, nature, processes and challenges of integrating interdisciplinarity in the Sehwan Interdisciplinary Project (SIP) through its team members. The research finds that interdisciplinarity is an evolving process than a fixed construct: from its multi/pluridisciplinary phase to its full-grown interdisciplinary stage. The nature of  interdisciplinarity within the SIP is a sort of disciplinary enrichment. In this case, each discipline explores and extracts from plurality of disciplinary sources to address the research problematic. In this regard, SIP had gone through a number of processes, procedures and related challenges to integrate such dynamics at the level of meaning and nature into the Project.

Lastly, while analyzing the following recommendations from SIP team members, the research provides useful insights for integrating interdisciplinarity at the higher educational level in Pakistan: (a) rethinking the conception of knowledge in the Pakistani academia; (b) seeking national interdisciplinary research initiatives, knowledge production and dissemination practices; (c) harnessing interdisciplinary research in social sciences by seeking cross cultural/institutional collaborations; (d) developing intradisciplinary/departmental synergies through creating new objects of inquiries; and (e) institutionalizing interdisciplinarity at macro and micro levels in higher education.”

Keywords: knowledge process, interdisciplinarity, multi/pluridisciplinary, integration, procedures, challenges, social sciences, teaching/learning, research, higher education, policy and practice

Book review: Five days and nights in Sehwan by Jürgen Wasim Frembgen

Jürgen Wasim Frembgen, Am Schrein des roten Sufi. Fünf Tage und Nächte auf Pilgerfahrt in Pakistan, Arles, Frauenfeld, Waldgut Verlag, 2008, 165 p.

The book by J. W. Frembgen, ethnologist Curator of the East State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, is a travel journal about five days and nights spent in Sehwan pilgrimage in 2002. Served by an excellent knowledge of Islam in Pakistan – since 1981 – and by the acuity of his observations, Frembgen’s book is a pleasant and colourful story, well done and well written. The bravura that retains the reader’s attention are the humorous stories of travelling by train from Lahore, and numerous portraits of the protagonists he met: pîrs, malangs, dancers, beggars, professional photographers, pilgrims from all persuasion, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu. The attention to material culture in general and to the “daily life” outside the usual daily life that is the pilgrimage is remarkable in its detail: the exhaustion of the pilgrim, how to drink a cup of tea, sleep under tent of pilgrims or how to urinate against a wall, close combat during the visit of the tomb or in shopping streets, spitting red betel brown or chewing tobacco, the movement of hashish or opium, showers at hairdressers. A real pedagogical concern led Frembgen to insert here and there some hagiographic stories or an explanation for the lay reader – for whom the book is basically designed. Therefore he explains how hagiographic stories circulate, the presence of many Hindus in the melâ, the liturgical rhythms of melâs, dances and trances practiced.

Some claims unfairly generalize the Indo-Pakistani Islam case to Islam in general, for example by taking shots at Kipling’s or Guenon’s styles on the materialistic West facing Mystical East (= India? The Islam?) – an opposition that the strong tensions within Pakistani Islam which is highlighted at the very end of the book itself. Frembgen seems more relevant when he said that the devotees of Sehwan are neither Islamic nor secular Muslims, and probably nothing that clearly corresponds to the inadequate categories of sociologists of religion. The book has also, inevitably, the look of a very “West Germany” German, very attentive to the ecology and highlights what is most interesting for him. He focuses on the “body” in the pilgrimage sometimes at the expense of proper spiritual aspects on which the book is ultimately more allusive. But incorporated religion is indeed the major characteristic of all pilgrimages.

One will enjoy reading a lively and successful book designed in the tradition of a certain German ethnographic culture that is carefully and thoroughly descriptive, and a long growing culture of the Wanderer that is renewed by globalization and which has been recently illustrated by the travel writings of an another well-known author, Wolfgang Büscher. Immersed into another world, Schrein Am roten Sufi can benefit a wide audience, not only to those who love Sehwan.

Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen (INALCO, Paris)

Other publications

Journey to God. Sufis and Dervishes in Islam, OUP, Karachi, 2009.

The Friends of God – Sufi Saints in Islam. Popular Poster Art from Pakistan, OUP, Karachi, 2006.

“Divine Madness and Cultural Otherness: Diwânas and Faqîrs in Northern Pakistan”, South Asia Research, 26: 235-248, 2006.

“From Dervish to Saint: Constructing Charisma in Contemporary Pakistani Sufism”, The Muslim World, 94/2: 245-257, 2004.

“Religious Folk Arts as an Expression of Identity: Muslim Tombstones in the Gangar Mountains of Pakistan”, in Muqarnas XV: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World, Gülru Necipoglu (ed.), Leiden: E.J. Brill, 200-210, 1998.

MA dissertation: Hurs and the Historiography of Sindh

Abdul Haque Chang, The Issue of Hur: Representation in the Historiography of Sindh, MA thesis in Cultural Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, 2010.

“This thesis aimed at understanding how certain narratives about the Hurs of Sindh generated by British colonial administers have become dominant tropes of the Hur identity and representation. However, the present study sought to question established assumptions and argue that the British construction of Hur identity has also been accepted uncritically by Sindhi historians, writers, nationalist as well as scholars trained in western academic discourses. Two novel are presented here – one by H. T Lambrick The Terrorist (1972) and another by Muhammad Usman Deplai, Sanghar (1963) – in order to show how both authors have articulated the Hur identity in a particular way and how these writings became later standard texts to write fictional and non-fictional narratives of the Hurs. The thesis also argues that some trends that have emerged recently to salvage the Hur history and re-write it from a Sindhi nationalist perspective, should also be subjected to critical questioning. Different genres of writing are discussed here to show that within Sindh different scholars and literary traditions exist, that are embedded in modernism, nationalism, and the Marxist tradition, and take different positions on modernity, development and social change. The thesis is concluded with the argument that the issue of Hur representation needs to be studied within the broader perspective of representation and history of Sindh, by bringing in oral narratives, public memory, Subaltern Hur voice and by critically examining dominant and alternative Hur narratives.”

PhD thesis: Material Culture from Southern Pakistan

Annabelle Collinet, Through Ceramics: Sindh and Islam. Material Culture from Southern Pakistan, 2nd-12th centuries AH/ 8th-18th centuries AD. PhD thesis in Archaeology, University of Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne, 22 MArch 2010.

“This dissertation introduces an unpublished material on ceramics, coming from the archaeological researches of the MAFS (The French Archaeological Mission in Sindh) directed by Monique Kervran from 1989 to 2002. The ceramics studied were found during the excavations of the Sehwan Sharif fortress in Central Sindh, the excavations of the port establishments of Lahori Bandar and Ratto Kot, and during the surveys of 23 sites in the Indus delta. This material led to drawing a first chronological sequence of ceramics from Sindh, from the early Islamic period (8th century) to the Moghol era. Besides this chronological view the study of this ceramic material also deals with the technologies of the ceramic wares, and the questions of their production, distribution and commercial exchanges. Ceramics from Sindh of the Islamic period are characterized by the combinations of common red wares with painted red wares, stamped and moulded red wares ; by grey and black wares and by glazed wares. These types are inherited from very ancient regional traditions, belong to the Indian cultural area and lastly, belong to the specific ceramic culture of Islam with the use of glazed wares.”

Keywords: Sindh, ceramic, ceramology, archaeology, excavations, surveys, Sehwan Sharif, Lahori Bandar, India, Islamic period.

Interview with Kishwar Rizvi, 2010

Kishwar Rizvi is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History and Islamic Architecture at Yale University. She has recently completed a book: The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: History, religion and architecture in early modern Iran (London: British Institute for Persian Studies, I. B. Tauris, 2010). Dr Rizvi co-edited with Sandy Isenstadt another book, Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and politics in the twentieth century (University of Washington Press, 2008). During her visit to Paris in December 2009, Annabelle Collinet (Louvre Museum), interviewed her about her work and projects.

Can you tell us first about your background and how did you come to work on this field?

I am an architect and art historian, with an interest in issues of religion, gender and nationalism in the art and architecture. My primary research areas are Iran and Pakistan, with current projects in the United Arab Emirates. My research moves between the early modern period of the ‘great’ empires of 16th and 17th Turkey, Iran, and India, to contemporary cultures of the modern Middle East and South Asia.

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and came to the United States for Bachelors, Masters, and eventually PhD degrees. During these times, I practiced also as an artist and an architect. Although my recent scholarship has focused on Iran, I have been documenting and photographing architectural sites in Sindh, Pakistan, for many years. Of particular interest to me are shrines and funerary architecture, as found in Makli, Sehwan, and Bhit Shah.

What was your first fieldwork experience?

I have conducted fieldwork in Iran since 1994. My focus has been on Sufi and Shi`i shrines for the 16th and 17th centuries, that is, the Safavid period. My first project in Iran was the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the ideologue of the Iranian revolution. I was interested in the manner in which historical form, such as the tradition shrine type, merged with modern concerns of nationalism and popular culture. I did research for my PhD dissertation on the shrine of the Sufi Shaykh, Safi al-din Ishaq Ardabili, the founder of the Safaviyya order.

What sort of research methodology did you develop at that time?

The primary focus of my research have been the shrines of Shaykh Safi al-din Ishaq in Ardabil (northwest Iran), Imam Ali Reza in Mashhad, and that of his sister, Fatima Masuma in Qum. In my methodology, I depend on close historical analysis of chronicles from the 16th and 17th centuries, illustrated manuscripts, literary texts, as well as European travelogues. I am particularly interested in asking how architecture, as a functional space, also performs as a symbolic site for the enactment of the rituals of piety and imperial ideology. Combining the formal with the phenomenal, one may reach a better understanding of the religious and cultural contexts of a period, in this case, Safavid Iran. I also study, as comparanda, religious and imperial representations in Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India.

As a native of Karachi, you have visited very often the Sufi shrines of Sindh in Southern Pakistan. What did you find particularly appealing about Sehwan Sharif?

I am particularly interested in shrines such as that of Sehwan, because of the access they allow for women. Such is not the case in other spaces, such as mosques, in most Muslim countries. Sehwan also holds a very special place for me on a personal, as well as professional, level. I have visited it since I was a child, and have always been fascinated by the dynamism of the site – as a place of both communal and religious activities. In fact, much of my academic research has been driven by questions first formed in Sehwan; for example, how does one study an architectural monument that is constantly changing and evolving, in form and meaning? What is the role of Sufism in contemporary Pakistani society, and how does the shrine institution augment that role? What are the particularities of Sehwan’s ‘ecstatic’ tradition of Sufism, and how do they affect the way in which the shrine is used and understood? How can we describe the phenomenal qualities of the space? What medium would best capture that dynamism – text, music, photography – and what can the architectural historian contribute to that understanding?

In sum your experience of Sehwan Sharif played an important role in your trajectory. Can you elaborate more about the relationships existing between gender and architecture at the mausoleum of La`l Shahbâz Qalandar? What were the major conclusions of your study at Sehwan?

The shrine of La`l Shahbâz Qalandar maintains what would be considered the ishrâqî tradition of Sufism and, as the rituals and ceremonial evinces, an ‘ecstatic’ mode. By that I mean that the weekly dhammâl in the courtyard (the beating of the ritual drums, qawwâlî, and dancing) creates a space that is phenomenal and also illusionary. In my research I was intrigued by how women’s bodies inhabit the shrine, and how their particular designation (for example, ‘young girl’, ‘prostitute’, ‘transvestite’ and so on) could be codified through architecture and ritual. One of the insights was that the shrine is gendered space, and yet the idea of gender becomes unstable through the complex social and spatial negotiations that take place in it. Indeed, the rituals and dance within ‘powerful’ spaces such as the courtyard and tomb enclosure alter and subvert the male/female dichotomy.

Since your childhood you visited Sehwan. What major changes did you notice in terms of urban architecture?

This is a difficult question, and one that my sociologist and urban historian colleagues can answer better. However, I did see that the shrine is much cleaner and under closer management. My first impression was that the institution has become more commercial and tourism has increased, but I suspect that has always been a factor for popular pilgrimage sites such as this.

How did your experience of Sehwan contributed to your understanding of other sites, ie the mausoleum of Khomeini and others?

There are multiple ways in which the experience at Sehwan continues to inform my research, both in the context of sixteenth-century shrines in Iran and contemporary religious architecture elsewhere in the Middle East and South Asia. It teaches us to think more deeply about spaces for women in Islamic society, the political and ideological power of religion, and, perhaps most interestingly, the phenomenological experience of architecture through rituals of devotion.

More on Kishwar Rizvi

“Image of Man, Vision of the Divine: Illustrated Assembly of Lovers manuscripts in 16th-century Iran,” lecture at the workshop, “Troubling Images: Some Cross-cultural reflections,” sponsored by the Religious Studies department at Yale University, May 2010.

“Sites of Pilgrimage and Objects of Devotion,” chapter on the great shrines at Ardabil, Qum and Mashhad, for Shah ‘Abbas: The Remaking of Iran, edited by Sheila Canby, (London: British Museum

Press), publication accompanying exhibition at the British Museum, 2009.

“Locating Architecture, Gender and Ritual at the Shrine of Lal Shahbaz in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan,” on the panel “Boundaries of Sacred Space: How “Public” and “Private” Come into Being,” at the biannual conference of the American Council for Southern Asian Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, lecture, March 2007.

“Religious Icon and National Symbol: The Tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran,” Muqarnas: Journal of Islamic Art and Architecture, vol. 20, 2003.