Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality and the Performance by Pnina Werbner, Helene Basu

By Pnina Werbner, Helene Basu

The ongoing power of Sufism as a residing embodied postcolonial fact demanding situations the argument that Sufism has "died" in recent years. all through India and Bangladesh, Sufi shrines exist in either the agricultural and concrete components, from the remotest desolate tract to the trendy Asian urban, mendacity contrary banks and skyscrapers. This booklet illuminates the extraordinary resilience of South Asian Sufi saints and their cults within the face of radical monetary and political dislocations and breaks new floor in present learn. It addresses the latest debates at the come across among Islam and modernity and provides vital new comparative ethnographic fabric.

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Of course, he does not do this: ritual is allowed to leave intention obscure. The deliberate visualisation which disciples inculcate and the visions which they are given in return are facilitated by the pir’s iconic behaviour and the accompanying contrast between the simplicity of his appearance and the unseen forces which are supposedly swirling invisibly around and within him. Whether in dreams, day-visions, conversations or miraculous appearances, devotees effectively take away and activate the iconic image of a pir, a man whose imagined mastery over his base nature supplies an inviting space in which their own needs and desires can find response, and where their minds can find repose.

It imagines the divine as both absent and present, as real as life and more real besides. The appearances of spiritual power Many Sufi shrines in Bangladesh are centred on tombs, with ritual items or markings that characterise and demarcate the sanctified domain in which pirs are experienced. Such objects, particularly the architectural structures of Sufi shrines, have a rhetorical quality. They help regenerate and focus a religious discourse, emboldening it through the apparent proof they offer of the temporal consequence of transcendent ideals.

The iconicity of a pir is thus bound up with materiality, as the hardware of sanctity manifesting the reality of saintliness. It is the platform or medium enabling the performance of ritualised, exemplary respect behaviour towards the pir through which his saintliness can be realised and routinised. When a pir is entombed, the material dimension takes centre stage. At the same time the activation of a devotional attitude within delineated spaces becomes the means by which the intimate, iconistic and miraculous aspects of a pir’s identity are realised.

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