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Conference: Narrating the pilgrimage to Mecca: experiences, emotions, and meanings

From:Th 12-12-2019
Until:Fr 13-12-2019
Where:University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam

Narrating the pilgrimage to Mecca: experiences, emotions, and meanings

Conveners: Professor Marjo Buitelaar (University of Groningen) and Dr Richard van Leeuwen (University of Amsterdam).
Date: 12 & 13 December 2019.
Venue: University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Key note speakers:

1. Professor Seán McLoughlin (University of Leeds)
2. To be announced

CALL FOR PAPERS (deadline 1 June 2019)


For many Muslims Mecca is the most sacred city on earth and a powerful presence in everyday life. Given the centrality of Mecca and the hajj in the Islamic tradition and its increasing popularity as a religious travel-destination since the nineteenth century, it seems surprising that Meccan pilgrimage – including both hajj and umra - has virtually escaped the attention of scholars on modern Muslim life. While a number of recent studies focus on the history of the hajj, particularly in colonial times, pilgrims’ personal experiences of the pilgrimage to Mecca have not yet received much attention. This conference endeavors to remedy this neglect by exploring how pilgrims from different times and places in the world have narrated their experiences of the hajj and umra.

The main focus of this conference is on the pilgrims’ lived engagement with the rituals of the hajj, Meccan space and their fellow pilgrims. It studies how pilgrims have made sense of Meccan pilgrimage by asking how they select from and creatively combine cultural discourses and emotional repertoires in their stories about expectations, experiences and recollections of Muslim pilgrimage ? How do these stories relate to the wider sets of social relations, cultural contexts and power structures they are embedded in ?  

Additionally, it explores the ways this engagement is informed by (1) the discursive traditions in which Muslims have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and articulated their experience of it; and (2) how these interpretations and experiences been shaped by the various cultural discourses which co-constitute their habitus and moral and aesthetic sensibilities. In particular, the conference explores the ways in which the experience the pilgrimage to Mecca, most specifically but not exclusively the hajj, has been articulated in relation to the self and society.

We approach the hajj as a dynamic ritual, the experience of which is diverse and changing over time amongst individuals and groups in different places. The conference aims to map the dynamic development of the pilgrimage to Mecca until today by producing insights in the ways the ongoing technological, cultural, political and economic transformations in pilgrims’ lives have affected their experiences. We are especially interested in the impact of modernity on the pilgrimage experiences of individual Muslims in the period from 1850 until the present day, but do not exclude the exploration of earlier sources and texts.

More information will follow.