Discourses and practices of space sharing:
Christians and Muslims in the Balkans

05-07.12.2019
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6, Raum 2249a

The workshop is made possible by the generous funding from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung (the main sponsor), as well as Southeast Europe Association – Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft and Humboldt University of Berlin, Department for South Slavic Studies at the Institute of Slavic and Hungarian Studies, which is the host of the meeting.

The workshop is closely connected to the individual research project (Fritz Thyssen Stiftung Post-doctoral Research Scholarship) led from 01.07.2018 until 30.06.2020 by Dr. Olimpia Dragouni at the Department for South Slavic Studies under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Christian Voß, the Head of the Department:

Shared Places of Cult of Muslims and Christians in Macedonia
in every day praxis and as seen by Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh)

Stretched conceptually between the elaborations of Robert Hayden in Antagonistic Tolerance. Competitive Sharing of religious sites and spaces (2016) and Magdalena Lubańska in Muslims and Christians in the Bulgarian Rhodopes. Studies on Religious (Anti)syncretism (2015),  the “Shared places…” project tries to explain the issues of sharing (sacred) space between Christians and Muslims through the lenses of religious and specifically, Islamic studies. It is to bring some balance to the Balkan studies which tend to overlook the perspective  of Islam, and that of Muslims: turning Muslims into an object of research, and rarely into subject who actively contributes to the society and culture. 

The hope is to include as many Islamic voices as possible, especially the overlooked ones (i.e.: both Sunni and non-Sunni, Slavic, Albanian, Romani, Turkish). The assumption is that data collected from anthropological research of everyday practices, and textual one of both historical sources, and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh; hadith, tafsir, fatwa), can help explain the phenomena of sharing/mixing religious sites,  and indicate “general” stages of othering the non-Muslims by Muslims, and vice versa.

Apart from purely academic outcomes, a proper identification of those stages might indicate how  to efficiently shape relations between various faith communities inhabiting a common territory.

The workshop

The aim of the meeting is to bring together scholars from a broad array of backgrounds and experience in humanities and social sciences, whose expertise might help elaborate on the phenomena of sharing spaces of cult in the Balkans, and in the wider post-Ottoman area.

In the foreword of Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean. Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries the co-editor of the book Maria Couroucli, notes after Charles Stewart (1999:55) that “an anthropology of syncretism must comprehend how zones of purity and hybridism come into being (…) This can be achieved through a combination of historical and ethnographic case studies where syncretism or antisyncretism are at issue” (Couroucli, Alberra 2009:8).

The choice of specialists invited for the workshop aims to include into this ongoing research project (anthropology of syncretism/anthropology of shared sacred spaces), new contexts: necessarily excluded previously, but more ephemeral than the approach usually utilized which has been focusing so far mostly on particular case studies. Those contexts are difficult to grasp in case /location-oriented scholarship, and include, for instance, secularism and atheism. The atheism and secularism (present inherently in 20th century Yugoslav and Albanian socio-political life), stand naturally in opposition to the Ottoman-based religious-cum-national, post-millet identity of individuals and masses.

In order to help unlock those contexts, the idea behind the workshop was to bring together scholars from specialized fields, who otherwise might never meet each other in a close cooperation, and thus, “achieve” interdisciplinarity and stimulate close intellectual exchange and thus, open the way we think about the Balkans, and Christian-Muslim encounters in the region and beyond it.

Due to the funding procedures of Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, the list of the participants had to be closed by February 2019. However, all those who wish to join and participate as non-presenting guests are kindly invited to the venue.