Accepted Paper:

Metonomies of centers and borders: artist, index, and recipient in a photographic interpretation of intellectual gestures in Pakistani Sufism  


Lukas Werth (Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS))

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the photographic creation of metonymic presences and subjectivity, also using alternative processes, and shows the interaction between artist, indexed experience, and recipient by investigating Pakistani Sufi identities and spaces, noting a shift from sharing to drawing borders.

Paper long abstract:

The paper uses a photographic approach to Sufism in Pakistan in order to argue that photography not only can be, but necessarily is subjective, and that any objective quality comes after this basic quality. Photography is - not surprisingly - founded on metonymy, giving rise also to metaphorical representation. At the heart of the metonymy lies a material, indexical immediacy, an experience which is nevertheless expressed by the photographer's frozen view, and this placing of the photographic trope constitutes an interaction between the photographer/artist, the experience which is indexed, and the recipient (Alfred Gell), all positions allowing for a creative influence, resulting in a positioning of presences. This will be demonstrated with a pictorial essay about contexts of Punjabi and Sindhi Sufism which explores expressions of identities, authority, and sacred spaces, exposing an intellectual gesture of sharing identities and of defining concepts and spaces from the center outwards, which today is counterpoised particularly in the urban Punjab counterpoised by a gesture of exercising power through drawing borders and confronting exclusive entities. The paper argues that this shift is due to a changing discourse on religion and norms which makes deep inroads into Sufi contexts, and this is stated through photographic metonymies whose subjective quality is further enhanced through the use of alternative photographic processes which allow to go beyond conventional choices between black&white and color. It is discussed how the artist, the index (persons and other features), and the recipients all enter into the creation of the tropes.

Panel P08
Photography in/of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan: historical and contemporary perspectives