Sufism, Anthropology, and the Post-Secular Condition in Berlin
Awards and Scholarships
Research and Teaching Interests
Western Europe (Germany and the Netherlands) and South Asia (Bangladesh)
Working title: Sufism, Anthropology and the Post-secular Condition in Berlin and Connected Sites
What is Sufism? How is Sufism practiced and experienced in Berlin and connected sites? Bringing together two traditions of inquiry – Sufism (taṣawwuf) and Anthropology – I make sense of a set of contemporary enactments of Sufism in practice and experience. The “post-secular” is a provisional diagnosis of the contemporary condition, an organizing principle for the empirical reality and an analytical stance to hold together the multiple entanglements of Sufism: in invoking other kinds of past and ‘minority history’ exceeding the majority history narrative of the secularized German society; in imagining and opening up subtle bodies and metaphysical hearts towards transforming the self and social relations trespassing the limits of a materialist, secular body; in healing the problems of living and chronic health conditions beyond the confines of evidence-based biomedicine; in the seeking of an elusive ‘something else’ than secularist subjectivity; and, in the efforts to engage in affirmative action that do not necessarily fit certain secularized notions of politics. This dissertation is an effort to articulate Sufi practice and experience in the German capital, at the heart of one of the richest nation-states with its hidden structures of inequality as well as the conditions of possibilities it affords. Although Sufism makes a different set of demands than academic anthropology, both disciplines enable us to talk back to a growing fear of Islam, the ever-shrinking space for alternatives and the trivialization of the post-secular imagination in Berlin.
Research Skills and Experience
Academic blog articles
2017 with Kristina Dohrn, Britta Rutert, Judith Schühle, and Mechthild von Vacano. Weaving the World in Conversation with Paul Stoller: From Sensuous Scholarship to Public Anthropology. In: Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt. April edition.
2015 Healing the City: Sufi Prayers in Berlin's Towers. In: Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt. May edition.
Chapters in edited volumes
2015 Sufi body practices and therapeutic politics in Berlin. In: Klinkhammer, G.; Tolksdorf, E. (Hg.): Somatisierung des Religiösen. Empirische Studien zum rezenten religiösen Heilungs -und Therapiemarkt. Pp. 237-282. Bremen: Universität Bremen
2014 What does sitting have to do with the self? Body techniques, personhood and well-being in Vipassana meditation. In: Van der Geest, S., Gerrits, T. and Challinor, J., eds. Medical anthropology: Essays and reflections from an Amsterdam Graduate Programme. Health, Culture and Society: Studies in Medical Anthropology and Sociology Series. Pp. 265-282. Diemen: AMB Publishers.
2011 Friendship (and healing) in the ‘intersubjectivity of silence’: A case illustration. In: Tankink, M. and Vysma, M., eds. Roads and Boundaries: Travels in search of (re-) connection. Pp. 195-206. Diemen, the Netherlands: AMB Publishers.
Articles in peer-reviewed journals
2014 with Hasan, T., Muhaddes, T., Camellia, S., and Rashid, S.F. Prevalence and experiences of intimate partner violence against women with disabilities in Bangladesh: Results of an explanatory sequential mixed method study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29 (17): 3105–3126.
2013 with Zaman, S. and Joarder, T. Mcdonaldization without a McDonald’s: Globalization and food culture as social determinants of health in urban Bangladesh. Food, Culture and Society: An international journal of multidisciplinary research 16 (4): 551-568.
2011 with Mann, A. M., Mol, A., Satalkar, P., Savirani, A., Sur, M., and Yates-Doerr, E. Mixing methods, tasting fingers: Notes on an ethnographic experiment. HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory 1(1): 221-243.
2010a An extraordinary truth? The Adam suicide notes from Bangladesh. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 13(3), 223-244.
2010b Cultural dimensions of depressive episode: A qualitative study in two villages of Matlab. Journal of Population, Health & Nutrition 28(1), 95-106.
2010  with Van der Geest, S. and Zaman, S. Daily health concerns in Kakabo: Anthropological explorations in a Bangladeshi village. Dhaka: James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University.
2014 Patients and Agents: Mental Illness, Modernity and Islam in Sylhet, Bangladesh by Alyson Callan. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012. In: Medicine Anthropology Theory 1 (1): 213 - 214.
2002 The man who would marry God: A case of schizophrenia with bizarre delusion. Bangladesh Journal of Psychiatry 16 (1), 48-54.
2016. Writer, Co-Director. An anthropological becoming. 04:50 © Lotte Knote and Nasima Selim
2007. Researcher, Scriptwriter and Assistant Director. Mother Courageous: Maternal Deaths and Discontents in Uttar Pradesh.28:55. Director: Debalina Majumder © PSBT India
Selected Papers and Presentations in Academic Conferences/Workshops/Meetings
November 2017a Drawing the Lines of Transmission: Historical Ontology, Sufi Genealogies and History-
Making Practices.Thesis chapter presented at the meeting of Working Group Anthropology of Religion, Institute
of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISKA) & Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS),
November 2017b Participation in the Real: The Healing Power of Words, Sounds, and Things. Thesis chapter
presented at the meeting of Working Group Medical Anthropology, ISKA, FU Berlin
October 2017 An Anthropological Becoming: Methodological Fears and Hopes. Paper and short film presented at
the panel, “Critical Affective and Experimental Research” at the Conference of the German Anthropological
Association (DGSKA e.v.), FU Berlin
July 2017 Pathways of Becoming: The Desire-Lines of Post-Secular Subjects. Thesis chapter presented at the
meeting of Working Group Anthropology of Religion, ISKA & BGSMCS, FU Berlin
May 2017 Transitional Positionalities: Dual Apprenticeship and Ontological Politics of Sufism in Berlin.
Response paper presented at the workshop with Professor Michael Lambek titled “Practicing the Religion of
Anthropology”, Working Group Anthropology of Religion, ISKA & BGSMCS, FU Berlin
February 2017 Learning How to Whirl: Subtle and Material Bodies in “Dervish Dance”. Paper presented at the
seminar, “Transforming the Body through Dance” at the Oxford School of Anthropology; Organized by Prof.
Elisabeth Hsu and Dr. Paola Esposito, Argo-EMR (Anthropology Research Group at Oxford on Eastern Medicines
and Religions), University of Oxford
June 2016 Photographs as Noorani Things: The Winged Heart Moments with Sufism and Anthropology. Paper
presented at the meeting of Working Group Anthropology of Religion, ISKA & BGSMCS, FU Berlin
December 2015a Affective Scholarship and the Power of Being Affected: Notes on Doing Anthropology with Engaged Emotions. Paper presented at the Researchers’ Affect Workshop, FU Berlin
December 2015b Ontologies in Sufi Healing Practice: How to Write Praxiographic Narratives? Paper presented at the meeting of the Working Group Medical Anthropology, ISKA, FU Berlin
August 2015 Ontologies in Sufi Healing: Beyond Religion and Medicine. Paper presented at the XXI Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) at Erfurt University
June 2015aProvincializing Berlin: Genealogy of Sufismus/Sufitum and a Minority History of Sufi Berlin. Paper presented at the Colloquium of the Institut für Ethnologie, Westfällische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
June 2015b On Therapeutic ‘Energy’ (Subjectivities, Ontologies, Encounters): Conversations with Sufi Healers and Granada Therapy in Berlin.Paper presented at the meeting of the Working Group Medical Anthropology, ISKA, FU Berlin
November 2014 Sufi-Berlin: Toward the anthropology of post-secular healing. Presentation at the workshop of the Working Group Medical Anthropology of the German Anthropological Association (DGSKA e.V.) titled “What to do with/in Global Health?” at FU Berlin
June 2014 How to manage “transference”? On Sufi practices and ethical emotions. Coordinated and presented a paper at the workshop, Ethics in Anthropological Research, Working Group Medical Anthropology, ISKA
November 2013“Healing the city”: Sufi healing at Berlin’s Fernsehturm. Paper presented at the Workshop titled, “Prayer, Architecture, History” at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin
November 2013 Dreams as Data, Dreaming as Method and Moving in 'the between': Notes on the Dual Apprenticeships of Sufi and Anthropological Practices. Paper presented at the working group Medical Anthropology, ISKA
October 2013 Jenseits von Dhikr und Drehtanz: Innovative Körperpraktiken in Sufi-Gruppen in Berlin. Poster presented at the Conference, Somatisierung des Religiösen, at Hannover im Schloss Herrenhausen, organized by Religious Studies, Bremen University
July 2009 Ekattorer Debdas (Debdas of 1971): The ‘unusual’ protest and plight of a ‘living martyr’ of the Liberation War. Paper presented in the 2nd International Conference on Genocide, Truth & Justice, organized by the Liberation War Museum (LWM), Dhaka, Bangladesh
June 2009 Delusion, heresy or resistance? Mass suicide and a ‘minority’ faith in Bangladesh. Paper presented at the workshop-cum-seminar on “Minority Cultures”, organized by the Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India
April 2009 Love in the time of globalization: Narrating/examining a trans-national queer experience in Kolkata. Queer Thoughts Conference in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, organized by Sappho for Equality, Activist Forum for Sexuality Rights, India
July 2008 An extraordinary truth? The Adam suicide notes from Bangladesh. Ethnographies of Suicide Conference, organized by the department of Anthropology, Brunel University, UK
January 2007 Creativity and Madness. Public lecture at the Department of Comparative Literature and CAS
(Center for Advanced Studies), Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India