In this year’s academic workshop at the Finnish Institute in the Middle East (FIME) – Beirut, Lebanon, 29-31 August 2018, we will further zoom into Shrines as ‘contact interfaces’, places of negotiation of heritage and present-day agency. Many shrines in Post-Ottoman societies have a history of intercommunal worship, but yet again so are many contested by feuding parties.

Based on the first success of last year’s inaugural conference of Recreating Pluralism at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, this year we will further delve into the topic of “Shrines & Sacred Spaces in Post-Ottoman Societies, as Places of Inter-Communal Connection and Contestation”. The planned output of this workshop is an edited volume.

As the topic is particularly inviting for further exploration beyond the workshop room, we are also planning a ‘Shrines Tour of Lebanon’ supervised by some of our own expert participants of which Nour Farra-Haddad, founder of Neos travel and the Holy Lebanon app is the most important one, monday – tuesday 27-28 August. The planned output of this workshop is an edited volume.

Whereas accommodation and tickets will be paid for those selected participants who have no financial means themselves and are not residing in Lebanon, the Shrines Tour of Lebanon will be self-paid by participants. More information about this tour will follow later. Expect a budget of between $ 100-200 for transport and accommodation.

Academic Introduction

Many shrines in the Mediterranean have a history of intercommunal worship (Albera and Couroucli, 2012). The most widespread network of shrines attracting a multi-religious audience are those dedicated to the connected and occasionally overlapping saintly entities of Nabi Khidr (Islamic), Mar Jurjus (Orthodox Christian) and Mar Ilyas (Jewish in origin, yet also Christian and Islamic).

These and other saintly entities are the epitome of an awareness of a historically shared sacredness that transcends communal, as well as present day national borders. Many of these shrines continue to be popular places of worship, leisure and social gathering. In contrast to the more formal and mono-religious institutions of assembly, such as mosques, churches and synagogues, shrines also attract a more varied audience, in terms of background, gender and age. The larger ones often function as community centers and institutions offering social services.

However, the veneration of saints is contested, both by secular and fundamentalist voices, and in past and present war conditions many shrines in the Balkans and the Middle East have been damaged or destroyed by nationalists and/or Islamists. But saints and shrines, however contested, continue to offer space for communal and intercommunal exchanges, for alignment within and between, for outreach and reconciliation. Shrines are religious institutions that function next to, but also in association with more formal religious, social and other institutions, including those created by the modern nation-state.

Subsequently, the concomitant local and extra-local networks attached to these institutions, both formal and informal, connect to various (including more secular) networks. Shared sacred spaces and coexistent religious and social practice as a given historical condition, constitute important elements for empowerment of those who seek to recreate the common ground, countering the, at times, dramatic consequences of social and political fragmentation, and enhance processes of communal, national and regional reconciliation (see for Iraq: Sarkin and Sensibaugh 2009).

Organization & Application

Apart from a core cohort of invited scholars, this workshop is based on an Open Call for Papers, for PhD students and up (with the possible exception of aspiring PhD students, with particularly relevant research interests), with direct affinity with the subject matter and / or doing (empirical) research in a Post-Ottoman society, from the Balkans to the Levant.

Scholars are expected to submit a full-length draft article by July 31, for peer pre-review, as well as a summary by the application deadline of May 31. We are open to scholars from a variety of disciplines, in the Humanities and Social Sciences, such as in Anthropology and Sociology, History, Heritage Studies, but also open to scholars in Political Science, Area Studies and other related fields, with matching insights.

Deadline for Applications is 31 May 2018. Please submit a paper summary (up to 400 words), biographical note and (link to) a CV, to Also let us know if you need financial assistance for the conference or not. For a limited number of scholars we provide accommodation for the duration of the conference and ticket support up to $ 350.

Be advised that when selected for the workshop, you will be requested to submit a paper length text for pre-workshop peer review by 31 July 2018. Selected scholars will each be ‘pre-reviewing’ eachothers articles (2 reviews per paper), and will bring their comments as discussants to the workshop, 29-31 August, so we have an advanced starting point of discussion when meeting.