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Accepted Paper:

Dreams, art, and parallel agency: an interconnected relationship of dependency between the sacred, artists and artworks  
Nada Al-Hudaid (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

Shias Muslims experience dreams and miracles in particular ways in their lives every day. For artists, art is a means of interacting with the sacred. Using an ethnographic example of a painting in Kuwait, this paper will discuss and extend Gell's agency of art.

Paper long abstract:

It is common for Shias to experience religious dreams and miracles on a regular basis. However, despite their centrality in many Shia communities, they have hardly been studied ethnographically. According to my fieldwork participants, many Shias in Kuwait view miracles as God and Ahl Al-Bayt's (family of Prophet Mohammed) way of communicating with humanity, whereas others see them as their reward for performing religious duty and worshipping. Exploring the world of oneiric experiences will help us better understand the kind of connections that are fostered between humans and the divine. The purpose of this paper is to describe how one artist in Kuwait experienced miracles through her art and how this challenged my perspective as a researcher when it came to using the senses to describe it.

Through the study of a statue and its maker, I will test Gell's theory of art and propose an extension to it as it does not recognize the complex and layered nature of art's agency. In a linear analysis of their role, miracles introduce a level of sophistication that undervalues what they actually accomplish.

Panel P165a
Engaging with aesthetic forms: Approaching the sociopolitical embedding and agency of arts [AntArt network]
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -