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Talk by Dzenita Karic, who is an intellectual historian currently working as a teach@tubingen fellow at the Centre for Islamic Theology, University of Tubingen. Her PhD (SOAS, 2018) analysed Bosnian Hajj literature in a longue duree perspective, tracing changes and transformations in the way the ritual was conceptualised. She has contributed to BJMES and Journal of Muslims in Europe, as well as to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women. Her major research interests include religious and devotional transformations, mobilities in Islam, and gender.

What did Hajj mean to believers in the 20th century Bosnia? This talk will shed light on the pilgrimage practices of Bosnian Muslims in the framework of modernity and social transformations, as well as point to the range of meanings ascribed to the Hajj in numerous writings in several genres and languages (Arabic, Turkish and Bosnian). Shaped by political changes and frequent wars, and often constricted by the nation-state boundaries, the modern experience of Hajj led to the new interpretations of religion itself. The Hajj – as a journey and as a ritual – provoked a line of questions related to issues of authority, authenticity, decline and reform, as well as the ever-present Other.

This talk will explore the utilitarian function of the pilgrimage as a conceptual mirror of the socio-political changes, and especially the rise of nationalism, emancipation of women, decolonial movements and technological and educational developments. The Hajj, in other words, became an effective tool for social critique and moral action.

In Bosnian context, it meant that different social and religious anxieties reflected onto the way Hajj was described and narrated in a number of travelogues, essays and treatises. Bosnian Hajjis also used photography, which gives us the insight into often gendered presentations of the non-Bosnian Other.

Finally, the talk will address the question of what it means to be a Bosnian Muslim in the Ummah on the Hajj. The pilgrimage provided a unique opportunity for the pilgrims to compare and contrast individual and collective experiences of Islam and the world. What came out of it did not often conform to the widespread notions of solidarity and brotherhood.


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