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Cambridge Interfaith Programme


Politics of Martyrdom

Dr Marlene Schäfers hosts the first mini-series of three episodes looking at the politics of martyrdom in contemporary Russia, Cyprus, Pakistan and India. Dr Schäfers is a social anthropologist and holder of a Newton International Fellowship awarded by the British Academy.


Episode 3: Revolutionary afterlives, promiscuous martyrs, and India’s haunted present: a podcast with Dr Chris Moffat

In this third and final episode of our mini-series on the politics of martyrdom, we talk to historian Dr Chris Moffat (Queen Mary University London) about the manifold afterlives of the early-twentieth-century Indian revolutionary Bhagat Singh. Our conversation explores the political potency of self-sacrifice, interrogates the difficulty to stabilize the meaning of martyrdom, and reflects on the politics of commemoration in contemporary India.



About Chris Moffat

Chris Moffat is Lecturer in South Asian History at Queen Mary University of London. In 2019 he was Visiting Faculty in the Department of History, Government College University, Lahore, Pakistan. Chris is the author of India’s revolutionary inheritance: politics and the promise of Bhagat Singh, published with Cambridge University Press in 2019. He is currently writing a book on architecture, politics and the philosophy of history in Pakistan. 


Episode 3: references (in order of mention)

  • Alex Houen, ‘Sacrificial Militancy and the Wars around Terror’, in Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton (eds.), Terror and the Postcolonial (Chichester, 2010), 113-140. 
  • Faisal Devji, The Terrorist in Search of Humanity (New York, 2008). 
  • Jagmohan Singh and Chaman Lal (eds.), Bhagat Singh aur Unke Saathianke Dastavez (Delhi, 1986). 
  • Chaman Lal, The Bhagat Singh Reader (New Delhi, 2019). 
  • Christopher Pinney, Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London, 2004). 
  • Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Durham, NC, 2010). 
  • Kama Maclean, A Revolutionary History of Interwar India (London, 2015). 
  • Simona Sawhney, ‘Bhagat Singh: A Politics of Death and Hope’, in Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir (eds.), Punjab Reconsidered (Delhi, 2012), 377-408. 
  • Vyjyanthi Rao, ‘Hindu Modern: Considering Gandhian Aesthetics’, Public Culture 23:2 (2011), 377-394. 


Episode 3: Music

Plaster Combo by Blue Dot Sessions; Punjab Shuffle by The Polish Ambassador



Episode 2: Martyrdom, sacrifice, and affect in Pakistan: a podcast with Dr Maria Rashid

The second episode of our series on the politics of martyrdom hosts Dr Maria Rashid, author of Dying to serve: militarism, affect, and the politics of sacrifice in the Pakistan army (Stanford UP, 2020). Together we discuss the role that affects and emotions play in making martyrdom a key theme for Pakistani militarism, the way in which gender impacts ideas about sacrifice, and how religion and nationalism intersect in the construction of martyrdom.



About Maria Rashid

Dr Maria Rashid has been working in the human rights and development sector for over 22 years now. A psychologist by training, she has been associated with various non-governmental groups in Pakistan including heading a national women and child rights organization for 14 years.  She acquired her doctorate in Politics and International Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2018.

Her book, Dying to serve: militarism, affect and the politics of sacrifice in the Pakistan army was published in 2020 by Stanford University Press and received an honourable mention for the IPS-International Political Sociology book award, 2021. She continues to be involved in trainings and research on violence against women, gender, masculinities and militarism and serves on the board of a number of groups and collaboratives both nationally and in South Asia. 


Episode 2: Further reading

  • Acton, C. (2007). Grief in War time: Private Pain, Public Discourse. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Holst-Warhaft, G. (2000). The Cue for Passion: Grief and Its Political Uses. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Goldstein, J. (2003). War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Navaro-Yashin, Y.  (2012).  The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geographies in a Postwar Polity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Verdery, Katherine (1999). The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Post Socialist Change. New York: Columbia University Press.


Episode 2: Music

Sunday Lights by Blue Dot Sessions

Entonces by A. A. Aalto




Episode 1: New martyrs, nationalism, and moral conservatism in contemporary Russia and Cyprus: a podcast with Dr Victoria Fomina

The first in a series of episodes on the politics of martyrdom in which we consider how religious and spiritual ideas about self-sacrifice animate contemporary social movements, political ideas, and moral imaginaries. In this episode, social anthropologist Dr Victoria Fomina (University of Toronto) discusses the rise of new martyr cults in the Christian Orthodox world, and how these articulate with a rise of nationalist politics, an admiration of militarist values, and the appeal of moral conservatism. 



About Victoria Fomina

Victoria Fomina is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. She received her doctorate in sociology and social anthropology from Central European University. Her research interests include anthropology of religion and nationalism, moral conservatism, postsocialist economic transformation, and grassroots political activism. She has carried out research in Russia and Cyprus, investigating the role the practices of commemoration and new martyr cults play in the recent surge of nationalist mobilization in the two countries.

Her book project, Land of heroes and martyrs: public commemoration, moral conservatism, and the making of Russia’s new military-patriotic culture, examines the transformation of Russian nationalism since the 1990s through the lens of the contested cult of soldier Evgenii Rodionov beheaded in Chechen captivity in 1996. Drawing on interviews with clerics, lay parishioners, artists, and nationalist activists engaged in promotion of this new martyr cult, the book traces the development of the new, memory-centered conservative public sphere and reveals the moral imagination driving the patriotic revival in Russia. 



Episode 1: Further reading

  • Atran, Scott. "ISIS is a Revolution." Aeon Essays, recuperado el 8 (2015).
  • Christensen, Karin Hyldal. The Making of the New Martyrs of Russia: Soviet Repression in Orthodox Memory. Routledge, 2017.
  • Christou, Miranda. "A Double Imagination: Memory and Education in Cyprus." Journal of Modern Greek Studies 24, no. 2 (2006): 285-306.
  • Efthymiou, Stratis Andreas. Nationalism, Militarism and Masculinity in Post-Conflict Cyprus. Springer, 2019.
  • Fomina, Victoria. "Between Heroism and Sainthood: New Martyr Evgenii Rodionov as a Moral Model in Contemporary Russia." History and Anthropology 29, no. 1 (2018): 101-120.



Episode 1: Music

Lobo Lobo by Blue Dot Sessions 

Russian Dance by Yair Yona

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