Focusing on a Sufi brotherhood, the tariqa Burhaniyya Disuqiyya Shadhiliyya, which stands in a twice-subaltern position with respect to both official and Reformist Egyptian Islam, my research critically looks into the Sahwa al-Islamiyya (Islamic Revival) from the point of view of an allegedly heterodox and esoteric brotherhood, a point of view which is relatively underrepresented both in the field and in literature. In 1974 the Egyptian national newspaper Al-Ahram, together with the official Sufi newspaper Al- Tasawwuf al-Islami, began an unexpected and long lasting campaign against this theretofore-prosperous Sufi brotherhood, swiftly changing its fortune. The detractors - state employed Islamic scholars, exponents of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the leader of the National Sufi Council - denounced Burhani practices and beliefs as being backward and superstitious, on the grounds that they were culturally rather than divinely inspired. Following these events, in the nineties the Burhaniyya was charged of heterodoxy and promiscuity, and banned from the National Sufi Council. The Burhani Shaykh (leader) decided to leave Egypt in order to concentrate his efforts on proselytizing converts in Europe, starting from a group of German Gestalt psychotherapists. Informally reaccepted by the Egyptian Sufi Council 2004 under the name of another Shaykh, the Burhani disciples have rearticulated their cosmologies in ‘Modern’ terms, in order to respond to the enduring suspicions towards their beliefs and practices. What does it mean to live a pious life in Egypt for people engaged in a subaltern form of Islam, such as my interlocutors? How do the Burhani followers deal with a public sphere dominated by an unsympathetic Reformist Islam? And how do they experience their faith under these unfavorable conditions, and under the consequent material and social constraints of everyday life?This ethnographic exploration expands on recent anthropological research that has drawn attention to Muslim selves and life-worlds, with the aim of restituting legibility to forms of religious commitment and ethical engagement otherwise incomprehensible through a secular and political vocabulary. However this literature has, to a large extent, investigated groups that rely on Reformist interpretations of the written foundations of Islam, while less work has been done on those movements claiming different Islamic traditions and interpretations. Grounded on a six-years extensive fieldwork among the different branches of the brotherhood in Cairo and in Europe (Rome, Paris and Hamburg), the research contributes to filling this gap. The first part of the dissertation concentrates on the public debates in which the Burhanis have been involved and draws attention to the vocabularies employed by my interlocutors, with the aim of disentangling the plurality of conceptual threads and material trajectories that make up the Burhani discourse on Modern Islam. Structured around the notions of ma‘anaui (spiritual) and maddi (material), this discourse relies on a floating body of cosmological notions which put into dialogue notions belonging to the Sufi mystical tradition, such as zahir (manifest reality) and batin (hidden reality), with liberal and modern conceptions of private and public dimensions of the Self, as well as with psychological notions of embodiment, linked to Gestalt psychology. Through this complex cosmology, the Burhanis vindicate a particular relation between emotions, senses, body and religious meaning, which blurs the boundaries between representations of Modern and Traditional Islam dominant in the contemporary Egyptian public sphere. The second part of the thesis explores how Burhani followers concretely mobilize their ritual practices and beliefs to understand and make sense of their everyday life needs, difficulties and desires. The notions of spiritual (mana‘ui ) and the material (maddi), in fact, are not confined to the ways in which the Burhaniyya discursively maintains its particular form of Islamic tradition, but infuse the ways in which individual followers make moral decisions and express their existential stakes. One chapter describes how some Burhani migrants understand and experience their emotional and physical displacement due to their forced migration, in terms of a jihad al-nafs (spiritual struggle) between the material and the spiritual dimensions of existence. Another chapter draws attention to the uses of music and singing, essential but contested features of Burhani spiritual and ritual engagement, and describe how my interlocutors creatively build a notion of aesthetics, which blurs the sacred/profane dichotomy dominant in contemporary Egyptian public sphere. Yet another chapter explores how young Burhani women negotiate their desires and expectations about love and Modern Islam with the dominant gender discourses and roles in which they are daily entangled. By complementing discourse analysis with a phenomenological exploration of the relation between people and between people and their surroundings, this research pledges for a more existential understanding of religious lives, in the attempt of blurring the dichotomy between the spiritual, the imaginary and the material. The research pursues a genealogy of Burhani cosmologies and practices, which takes into account both the role of public representations and of individual experiences in the shaping of a definite shared Burhani sensibility and cosmology. It therefore repositions religious commitment in relation to national and trans-national trajectories of concepts, as well as in the wider panorama of individual life-worlds, exploring the making of ethical and moral life as a conflictual and ongoing process, involving individual expectations and experiences, material needs, social constraints and public discourses. By focusing on the multiple dimensions of existence, this phenomenological methodology lays value at recognizing the urgency of the social, economic and political conditions that compel and constrain people in their pursuit of winding paths of religious commitment, thus originally contributing to anthropological scholarship on Islam and Muslim subjectivities. On a theoretical level, the research argues for a reassessment of individual creativity, which can be traced in the small, often unreflective albeit continuous, re-workings and variations that my interlocutors bring to the cosmologies and ritual practices they resort to. This analysis of religious life-worlds from the perspective of experiencing subjects highlights the fluidity of religious tradition and questions conventional understandings of Islam as a coherent set of doctrines and rules, which impose on human beings.
(2010). Corpi virtuosi e spiriti sensibili: esperienze e immaginari nel sufismo egiziano contemporaneo. (Tesi di dottorato, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, 2010).
|Data di pubblicazione:||17-giu-2010|
|Titolo:||Corpi virtuosi e spiriti sensibili: esperienze e immaginari nel sufismo egiziano contemporaneo|
|Settore Scientifico Disciplinare:||M-DEA/01 - DISCIPLINE DEMOETNOANTROPOLOGICHE|
|Scuola di dottorato:||Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze Umane|
|Corso di dottorato:||SCIENZE UMANE CURRICULUM ANTROPOLOGIA DELLA CONTEMPORANEITA' - 58R|
|Citazione:||(2010). Corpi virtuosi e spiriti sensibili: esperienze e immaginari nel sufismo egiziano contemporaneo. (Tesi di dottorato, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, 2010).|
|Parole Chiave:||ANTHROPOLOGY, SUFISM, SUBJECITVITY, BODY, PHENOMENOLOGY, EGYPT|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||07 - Tesi di dottorato Bicocca post 2009|