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Accepted Paper:

Jesko Schmoller (Humboldt University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

By looking into the transformative power of pilgrimage in the Russian Urals, this paper combines anthropological approaches to space, post-colonialism, practice and material culture. Muslim minority pilgrims engage with the past and the dead to produce alternative non-Russian spaces.

Paper long abstract:

In a multi-cultural environment and especially in conditions of empire, pilgrimage can be a tool for individuals and groups to newly experience and define space. Pilgrimage then has an inward and outward effect, remaking the people moving through the landscape but also recreating the ground they set foot upon. Nowadays, Muslims tend to be portrayed as foreign Others in the Russian media, even though it was the Russian Empire that expanded south to swallow the multi-ethnic populations of the Volga and Urals regions. In a mostly Christian Orthodox environment that designates a minority status to Muslims, pilgrimage around the almost exclusively Tatar / Bashkir village of Barda in the south of Perm Krai contributes to a resignification of the entire space. Barda is located in a valley surrounded by seven mountains that once served as lookouts for guardians, who in time came to be venerated as holy men. When the pilgrims pay their respects at gravesites, springs and mountain slopes, the old paths of pilgrimage are being activated, baraka (a spiritual force) begins to flow, the landscape of the dead comes to life and a peripheral Russian area transforms into a mythic land of Tatar sages and warriors of central significance. The reawakening of the land goes hand in hand with spatial claims being made and related to religious, local and ethnic / national identities. Apart from the sites themselves, recorded sermons, photographs, fragrance and blessed sweets play their role in conferring a spiritual quality to the experience.

Panel P148
Converting spaces and religious transformation: exploring the potential of human and material interactions
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -