Sensing the body to dilute the self: the corporeal acquisition of a Sufi identity

Item Type Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract Transformation is a theme that prominently appears in the ways Sufis perceive their religious identity. Although Sufis never consider the journey concluded, it is the entering into a mode of being characterized by perpetual progression that is presented as the essence of what ‘being a Sufi’ truly is about. In this paper, I argue that the transformative mode of being is first and foremost corporeally experienced and manifested, to the extent that embodied religious practices are the central locus of change - rituals hallmarking, for that reason, the keystone of Sufi identity. In this sense, Sufi rituals, an array of practices aimed at turning the supplicant into someone else, consist on focusing on bodily perception in order to dilute the self and ultimately reaching a communion with the divine. Sufi rituals are, as well, the main mechanism for the apprehension of Sufi knowledge, confirming the idea that the body in ritual action is not simply doing but knowing (Bell, 1997; Jennings, 1982). The paper theorizes the complex relations between knowing and embodiment derived from the practice of Sufi rituals, and its implications for the construction of modern Sufi identities. It considers four types of Sufi ritual, collective dhikr gatherings (waẓīfa), shrine’s visitation (ziyāra), celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday (mawlid), and rites of initiation (bay‘a) to content that modern Sufi identities are formed through three modalities of (bodily manifested) ‘becoming’: 1) awakening the senses, 2) developing communitas, and 3) restoring an imagined social order. The threefold frame will be illustrated with ethnographic vignettes taken from north African and western European contexts. These case-studies will add nuance to our understanding of Sufi identity by questioning the automatism and unequivocal efficacy often associated to Sufi rituals; the results are not always what the supplicant expected before embarking in the journey.
Authors Dominguez Diaz, Marta
Language English
Subjects other research area
Date 13 September 2019
Event Title Sufism and the body, International Conference
Event Location University of Utrecht
Depositing User Dr. Marta Dominguez Diaz
Date Deposited 27 Sep 2019 18:54
Last Modified 27 Sep 2019 18:54


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Dominguez Diaz, Marta: Sensing the body to dilute the self: the corporeal acquisition of a Sufi identity. 2019. - Sufism and the body, International Conference. - University of Utrecht.

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