[Reader-list] Reminder: Fellowships on "Popular Images and Media in Muslim Religious Spheres"

Tasveer Ghar tasveerghar at gmail.com
Tue Jun 8 16:32:57 IST 2010

Short-term Fellowships of The Cluster of Excellence – Asia and Europe
in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows,
Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany

On the theme:
Circulation of Popular Images and Media in Muslim Religious Spheres

"The Cluster of Excellence, Asia and Europe in a Global Context”
invites proposals for short term fellowships from scholars,
researchers and practitioners of popular arts and culture for
multi-disciplinary and multi-media projects of research and
documentation on theme of popular visual cultures and practices in and
around Muslim shrines and public spaces, with an emphasis on the
transcultural flows as emerging in the globalised contemporary popular
arts and media.

The proposals have to keep in mind (1) the research agenda of the
Cluster of Excellence – Asia and Europe in Global Context, attached
here or available at the website
and (2) the brief given below about the specific theme of this short
fellowship. Please remember: the last date for the receiving of
proposals by email is 30th June 2010 (12 midnight India time).

Theme: Circulation of Popular Images and Media in Muslim Religious Spaces
Muslim public spheres in India/South Asia exhibit a wide array of
image practices such as calendar and poster art, devotional framed
pictures, portrait photography with artificial backdrops, illustrated
covers of religious chapbooks and magazines, besides innovative wall
murals and printed notices, all of them incorporating popular icons of
Mecca, Medina, local Sufi shrines, saints, Shia symbols, and Arabic
calligraphy. Besides these, one also finds religious narratives in
popular recorded media such as audiocassettes, video CDs/DVDs, and now
the cell-phone software. Much of this popular visuality and ephemera
circulate around institutions such as Sufi shrines or mosques in south
Asia, although these may not be limited to only one shrine area or a
city. One may also find inter regional connections between shrines of
different towns and villages through the passage of these media to
wider areas.

Although much of these mass duplicated images and media may have their
origins in the traditional religious performative practices of the
pre-modern era, the impact of new technology and media, especially
derived from outside their local spaces, has altered the way religious
devotion is practiced today. One could highlight this with an example
about the mobility and transformation of Muslim shrines, saint
portraits and relics through images and media on the Indian
subcontinent (although by no means do we wish to limit the regional
focus to India but explore transnational and transcultural flows!).
Usually a Sufi shrine holds the original grave or relic of a specific
saint that cannot be replicated anywhere else (unlike a Hindu deity
whose idol or replica shrine can be recreated in other locations too).
Thus the visit to a particular Sufi shrine has its unique value for a
pilgrim for its originality. But the mass duplicated images of the
same can easily be made and have been in circulation for a long time,
making a shrine or relic mobile beyond its original location. There
are evidences of hand drawn illustrations of Sufi shrines and saint
portraits being made available before the onset of print in India. The
printing industry, especially of colour posters and other types of
images made the mass produced images of Sufi shrines even more
accessible and popular. The photography has added newer dimension to
this visual culture where an odd photo of a saint is used again and
again to make drawings and even idols, such as in the case Sai Baba of

Through this multi disciplinary project involving several researchers,
we wish to go a few steps further from the nexus of photography,
painting, and printed posters, to study the newer practices of the use
of “original” images for the creation of new mediated material such as
collage posters, videos, animation and even Internet-based
presentations that seek newer generation of devotees and their popular
piety. A typical example of this would be the production of popular
devotional videos about Sufi shrines that are basically music videos
with a performer/Qawwal singing a new song seeking the saint’s
blessing, dramatically videographed in a studio or staged settings,
interspersed with the vérité shots of the actual shrine – the two of
which can sometimes be very different in style and quality. There can
be several such examples from the contemporary popular culture of
Muslims in India. Thus, we invite you to be a part of a larger project
by contributing with your specific research about a shrine,
institution or public space that is witnessing the production of
popular images and media and getting altered through transcultural

As the end result of this round of fellowships, we plan to hold an
event in Delhi (c. spring 2011) where you would be invited to present
your work in the form of a lecture, exhibit or a video show.

Who is eligible to apply?
This fellowship is meant for individuals or groups who have access to
a unique collection of popular art material available in private or
public spaces. Currently we offer this fellowship to individuals or
groups based in India only. In exceptional cases, we may consider
projects from outside India, but the subject of research/documentation
would have to be Indian and the artwork needs to be sent to New Delhi,
India. Also, the grant money can only to be issued for a bank account
in India. There is no bar of age or educational qualification, as long
as you are capable of conducting the entire research/documentation on
your own, and can possibly provide a context to your work in the form
of a text report or essay in English or Hindi.

What would a fellow be expected to do?
You are free to carry on your research/documentation in any manner
that suits your subject. However, we would encourage projects that
stress on trans-culturality and use unconventional methods of research
and presentations, such as using images, videos, maps, and innovative
media that can be combined to create a larger networking. The Cluster
may present some advice or guidelines on how you could go about
conducting your fellowship. The period of six months available for the
fellowship work includes the making/organizing of your arts
collection, writing a report/essay about it, presenting your work in a
workshop at Delhi in the spring of 2010, and make your findings
available for a publication of the Cluster either on the web or
through print. Although you are not required to physically visit any
of our offices during the research period (except for the final
workshop in Delhi), you must constantly keep in touch with us via
email by reporting the progress or status of your work. The final
submission of your resulting materials and report must be made on or
before 31st December 2010.

You could either send the artworks to us (at your cost) for
digitization, or digitize it yourself using the guidelines suggested
by us. Currently, Cluster does not provide the facility for the
physical storage of the specimens. Cluster will also not provide the
facility to “restore” the artworks. You shall be responsible for
acquiring any copyright permission (and related documents) if required
for the artwork.

What does the Cluster fellowship provide you?
Although you can send us a detailed estimate of what your
documentation would cost, Cluster can provide a maximum of 1,000 Euros
(or its equivalent in the local currency) to each approved project.
This amount includes all costs such as research, travel, acquiring of
artwork, sending of the material to Cluster, writing of the essay,
fees to be paid to any third party, and so on. In case you wish to do
the digitization/scanning of images yourself, no extra funds would be
available for that. The fellowship amount would be paid to you in two
installments: (1) at the time of the signing of agreement: 50%, (2)
after the approval of your final submitted material: 50%. For those in
India, taxes as levied by the government of India would be applicable
to the fellowship payment. You should also have a PAN number and a
bank account in India in order to receive the fellowship payment. For
candidates outside India, other tax rules or restrictions may apply
depending on the local regulations.

What the fellowship will not support?
We would not support any infrastructural costs such as setting up of
an office, buying of equipment, daily meals, or per diem costs, etc.
The fellowship will also not support the making of new artworks by an
artist. Cluster is not in a position to purchase the art work from the
collector. In exceptional cases, if a fellow requires a larger sum of
money to buy a unique collection of art, Cluster would have the right
to own that material.

We are currently NOT looking for the strictly traditional art forms
such as folk arts, classical arts, or art with archaeological
importance, unless any of these reflect the change or transformation
brought about by modernity, urbanization, the interventions of
mass-mediated technologies, and so on. In fact, your objective of the
research need not be strictly the documentation or collection of a
certain art form. It could even involve contextualizing certain trends
of popular aesthetics, such as “politics or economics of popular art”,
or “aesthetics of election campaign” and so on.  However, Cluster will
not support a highly subjective/creative presentation or
interpretation of popular culture devoid of any empirical analysis.

What should your proposal contain?
Although we encourage you to write your proposal in any manner that
enables you to clearly state your objectives, some of the following
should be provided:

    * Working title of the project
    * Short introduction (one paragraph)Background/(cluster and other)
Objectives/relevance (1-2 pages)
    * Detailed Activities/Timeline planned
    * Requirements/estimated cost/budget
    * What has earlier been done on this artwork/subject? Provide a
short survey of the available material (maybe a bibliography). How is
your project unique?
    * What makes you the best person to do this project?
    * A summary of the proposal (max 300 words)
    * A brief résumé

You may also provide the following with the proposal:
Sample of art work (photos, prints, video, text etc.) maximum 3
specimens (preferably, in the form of an email attachment - you may
even direct us to an Internet site where such art specimens are
Names and addresses of two people in the field who know you, and will
be willing to write brief letters of reference if required.

Kindly send your proposal and all the materials by email to the
following addresses. The attachments in the email should not exceed 2
MB. If you wish to send more/larger attachments, kindly send them in
separate emails, giving similar subject lines, and giving a list of
all attachments in one/first email.

bakht at asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de,  tasveerghar at gmail.com

Deadline for receiving the proposals: 30th JUNE 2010

Before sending the final detailed proposal, you could also send us a
small (one-page) synopsis of what you wish to do – to get an idea of
whether it truly fits into the agenda of the Cluster.

More information about the reader-list mailing list