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Grant number like: FB-50506-04

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Shahzad Bashir
Carleton College (Northfield, MN 55057-4001)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2004 – 6/30/2005

Bodies of Saints: Religion and Society in the Late Medieval Islamic East, 1300-1500

I am seeking support for a sabbatical leave from teaching during 2004-5 to write a book on the late medieval religious history of the Islamic East (western, central, and southern Asia) gleaned from the discussion and depiction of the charisma of men and women recognized as great saints. Historical, hagiographic, literary, and artistic sources depicting the lives of Sufi masters and disciples contain a plethora of information that indicates that the saintly body, whether alive or entombed in majestic shrines, was a particularly potent carrier of religious power and authority during the late medieval era. This is confirmed by the extensive theorization of the saintly body in religious discussions emanating from mainstream as well as heterodox movements significant in the period. Informed by recent theoretical discussions in the humanities, and drawing on a wide array of sources in various languages, I treat the body as an individual, social, and political artifact reflective of the socioreligious environment of the region and period. The book addresses a significant lacuna in humanistic and social scientific studies of the body where Islamic materials have not received significant attention. The project also expands Islamic religious history into the social arena, beyond the concern with famous individuals, movements, and texts that remains dominant to the present. The inclusion of artistic material as a significant source for understanding views of the body adds a dimension that has hitherto received little attention in Islamic religious history. The book and articles generated by the study will advance scholarship in the understudied areas of Islamic religious and social history within the larger humanities umbrella.