Accepted Paper:

Sufi techniques of transformation: body prayers and post-secular healing in Berlin and connected sites  

Author:

Nasima Selim (University of Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin and connected sites in 2013-2015, the article discusses the Sufi techniques of transformation and post-secular healing: how the everyday secular, materialist bodies can be transfigured through the techniques of whirling, breathing, and energizing.

Paper long abstract:

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin and connected sites in 2013-2015, the article details the contemporary enactments of Sufi body prayers (Körpergebete) (Koll 2007) and post-secular healing. The Sufi-designated practices of dhikr (repeated recitation of the names of Allah and other sacred phrases), sema (whirling movement with music), the more recent Sufi dance-forms (combining dhikr, sema, and other healing technologies), and the Tasawwuri walks (embodying the affective body postures of past Sufi teachers) can be framed as techniques of transformation (Heelas and Kohn 1986). This paper draws key analytical lessons by juxtaposing the sociological/anthropological discussion of techniques of the body (Mauss) and the Sufi discourse of transformation in correspondence, and not by subsuming the other. The paper also discusses the empirical lesson of understanding how the everyday secular, materialist bodies can be transfigured into subtle/material sounding, moving, feeling bodies through the techniques of whirling, breathing, and energizing. Another lesson emerged from the close reading of the classical and contemporary Sufi articulation of transforming a self-centered ego (nafs), activating the subtle centers (lataif) and the metaphysical heart (qalb) in the novice's journey through the anticipated stages/stations (maqamat) guided by an authorized teacher. Thinking with the Sufi techniques of transformation in terms of Sufi bodies and experiential anatomies (Cohen 1993) can expand the conditions of possibility for imagining/inhabiting the human body and post-secular healing.

Panel Medi04
Techniques of transformation, healing movements, and medicine worlds