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Cambridge Interfaith Programme

 

Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović is part of the Research Team on a four-year project titled A Red Golden Legend: Muslim Hagiographic Experiences in the Former USSR and Popular Democracies, supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR) and led by Professor Stéphane A. Dudoignon (CNRS/GSRL) and Professor Marie-Paule Hille (EHESS/CCJ). The project is concerned with sainthood in action in societies characterised by both communist pasts and religious pluralism, with special interest in Islam. Read more about it here. Dr HadžiMuhamedović's personal project under the working title 'Tracing Dobri: Bosnian Muslim Saints in Political Turmoil'. 

 

Tracing Dobri: Bosnian Muslim Saints in Political Turmoil 

Sacred sites clustered around the graves of Muslim saintly persons – the so-called ‘Good Ones’ (Dobri) – may be found across Bosnia, sometimes attracting pilgrims of different faiths. Folk narratives about Dobri are abundant and specific to each locality. Yet, the origin of such heritage is usually understood to predate the long twentieth century and its three waves of deep ethno-religious cleansing and dramatic political changes, all of which sought to demarcate the boundaries of identitary, devotional and territorial belonging in the country. During my previous fieldwork, some post-war returnees to the south-eastern Bosnian highlands claimed that Dobri may be hidden, or even that they no longer exist, which they saw as a reflection of the pervasive violence affecting their landscapes. Saintly figures thus articulated social change even in their ostensible absence. This project contemplates the importance of such virtuous retreat, but it also draws on several recently discovered names of twentieth century Dobri, to consider, through multi-sited ethnography, whether and how sainthood becomes efficacious in times of conflict. I am particularly wondering if Dobri (alive or dead) retain their interfaith qualities, crossing boundaries and participating in restorative projects. I also look at the potential changes in the visibility, powers, visitation and reverence of Bosnian Muslim saints since the 1930s, to understand how the succession of nationalist and socialist projects, and their charting/erasure of religious identities, may have impacted the tradition of Dobri. To this end, I further develop a methodology of tracing – a heuristic for thinking through fragments, debris, absences, and leftovers as productive social forces. Finally, I seek to understand the gender dynamics of Muslim non-clerical holy persons and the place of women in the wider repertoire of saints. This is a working summary preceding anthropological fieldwork, which will build on my previous research of syncretic and shared saints in post-war Bosnia. 

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