Accepted Paper:

Living in America, believing in Macedonia: an ethnographic account on mimicry and creativity in representations of Bektashism  


Boštjan Kravanja (University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

In search for the Bektashi Order on Macedonian-Albanian border, new tekke-like »sacred places« were found. They are examined through the dynamics of ethnographic fieldwork and analysis with a focus on the diversity of Islam in the region from the theoretical concepts of mimicry and creativity.

Paper long abstract:

Traditionally, the religious landscape in Macedonia, as well as in other countries in this region, is very diverse. Rather than comprehending diversity through religious syncretism, which stems from world religions, religious life itself is the point of departure here. In my case, religious life is imagined and practiced along the secular, socio-political and (trans)national domains (or relations). The history of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes in Macedonia is intimately connected with the Bektashiyya in Albania and by implication also to Albanian national history. Bektashiyya, like other Sufi movements, represents a heterodox counterpart to legalist Islam, often mediating between Islam and Christianity. It was rather due to accidental discoveries during fieldwork that we found newly built "tekkes" in the area of Macedonian-Albanian border. The area contributes continuous outgoing migrant labor abroad. Most diaspora communities are established in USA, as well as in western European countries like Germany, Switzerland, Italy and others. Nowadays powerful migrating individuals are investing in home villages, also in actual and would-be public objects, such as mosques, churches, "tekkes" and in the construction of other sacred sites. The motivations for such investments are diverse; they are mutually cohabiting across national and political domains. The questions of competitive status on one hand and cooperation on the other are important. I suggest that the interesting part of such alternative socio-cultural practices of supporting and applying traditional religious symbols has to do with the balance between communal diversity and mutuality in relation to larger contexts such as the state, the region, European Union and the Islamic world. These may be locally explored through the concept of (trans)national mimicry and creativity.

Panel W098
Islam within and across religiously diverse communities: case studies from Muslims in the Balkans and Europe