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New Online Publication on Islamic Shrines

Feb 27, 2014

The project "Visual Pilgrim" by Prof. Christiane Brosius, Yousuf Saeed and Suboor Bakht - in cooperation with the Heidelberg Research Architecture - has resulted in an online publication. Under the title "South Asia’s Islamic Shrines and Transcultural Visuality", 10 essays enhanced with texts, photographs and videos are now available online.

The publication seeks to explore the relationship of place, religious practice and the emplacement as well as traffic of people, images and other media technologies across time and space. It examines Islamic shrines of saints in South Asia and other Islamic regions that are institutions of religious pilgrimage centred on the grave or mausoleum of an important Sufi saint or Shia imam. Such shrines are visited not only by Muslims but also by people from other faiths who go there to seek blessings and spiritual salvation. In the recent years, many of the shrines looked at in this volume have undergone transformation due to increasing influx from international or regional pilgrims and tourists and a rising interest to incorporate them into heritage politics of a city or state, impacting discourses on citizenship or ethnicity.

The volume proposes that cross-cultural entanglements are part and parcel of Sufi sites and practices, even though often not ‘obvious’ and/or acknowledged. The shrines, though physically immobile, are connected by agents, images, media, and practices, and thus shape a certain kind of spatial fluidity, always keeping everyday worlds and concerns at the forefront of enquiries about translocal connectivity, a connectivity that is by no means free of conflicts and tensions.

This transcultural mobility and connectivity of religious paraphernalia, sites and practices is of grave concern to the authors of the volume whose attention is paid to condensed zones of contact, such as Ladakh; to pilgrimage and media flows in Iran and Europe; to mediated religion in Pakistan, Singapore and Bangladesh or to performative aspects of site-specific and yet transnationally mobile imagery in particular regions of the Indian subcontinent.

The collection of essays has been edited by Christiane Brosius, Chair of Visual and Media Anthropology, and Yousuf Saeed, filmmaker and researcher based in Delhi. 

The online publication is the result of a research project with the title "Visual Pilgrim: Mapping Popular Visuality and Devotional Media at Sufi Shrines and other Islamic Institutions in South Asia". The project was conceptualised as an interactive, multimedia and multi-layered exploration that locates transcultural connections and flows between various Sufi shrines or Islamic pilgrimage centres in India and beyond. Hundreds of documented images, videos, audios and objects have been plotted onto the maps and annotated in the image database of Heidelberg University, unravelling linkages between different regions, sites, audiences, and media.

The project was based on extensive annotation of the research data and used a video annotation tool. It was coordinated by Suboor Bakht, Christiane Brosius and Yousuf Saeed in cooperation with the Heidelberg Research Architecture (HRA). Several short-time stipends had been given to successful applicants, the outcome are the essays.

Further Links:
Visit Visual Pilgrim
Access the online publication "South Asia’s Islamic Shrines and Transcultural Visuality"


  • Key Visual of the project

  • Shrine Rauza Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (popular poster published by Brijbasi Press)

  • Collection of Essays (screenhot)