Indiana University Bloomington
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Shrine and Pilgrimage in Central Asian Islam



This course will survey the complex of religious belief and activity centered upon shrines and pilgrimage to holy places in Muslim Central Asia, from the earliest accounts down to the present. Introductory lectures will discuss analytical and comparative approaches to the phenomenon of shrine visitation and pilgrimage; the balance of the course will explore specific issues in the history and present status of shrines and shrine-centered religious activity in Central Asia, with slides and other visual material augmenting lectures and readings. Throughout the course our aim will be to understand how shrines served and shaped the religious needs of Central Asian Muslims, and why the rites and beliefs connected with shrines have been a central feature of religious, social, political, and economic life in Islamic Central Asia; more broadly, we will consider ways of approaching the relationship between shrine-centered religious life and "normative" religious practices.

Topics to be considered include typologies of shrines and of practices associated with them; approaches to the origins and functions of shrines; concepts of holiness and sainthood as evidenced in shrine-centered religious activity; the facilities and personnel associated with shrines; the economic and political roles of shrines in medieval times; links between shrines and Sufi communities; shrines and paradigms of social organization; developments in narrative traditions focused upon shrines; the role of shrines in the assimilation of pre-Islamic rites and beliefs into Muslim life; regional differences in the nature and functions of shrines; shrines and communal identity; the fate of shrines during the Soviet period; and the revival of shrine-centered religious activity in post-Soviet times.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia


Department of Central Eurasian Studies