Religious times, media genres, and their technical execution: An ethnographic investigation of audiovisual media practices among Shi’ites in Hyderabad
The project addresses the aesthetic production of time and temporality in religious videos circulating among Shi’ite Muslims in Hyderabad, India. It will involve ethnographic research on media practices related to these videos. The project aims to explore the interrelations between the temporal structurations evident in Shi’ite videos, the temporal dynamics at work in the technical reproduction of images and discourse, as well as the interpretations and experiences of time among Shi’ites triggered by watching these videos.
A main subject of these in part locally produced videos is the ritualized commemoration of the tragic events of the battle of Karbala in 680 CE. Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was martyred in this battle along with other members of his family. For practicing Shi’ites, videos focusing on the ritualized and highly dramatic display of pain and mourning over the events at Karbala can provoke experiences of being present at the battle, enabling a sensually powerful witnessing of the tragedy. Such deeply felt witnessing is a central element of Shi’ite piety. On the other hand, there are also other video genres in circulation among Shi’ites in Indian cities such as Hyderabad. These take the memory of Karbala to suggest social and political reform in the present, implying a notion of progress in the future.
The project investigates the generation of different senses of being in time through the workings of media genres, and pays attention to how the modes of operation proper to technical media influence experiences of presence and thereby experiences of time. Media production and consumption are embedded in broader media practices that are in turn part of larger social and cultural contexts that reach far beyond the engagement with media proper. This is why the projected research involves ethnographic analysis of media practices. This will allow to shed light on the complex interplay of video genres, technically induced time axis manipulation, the temporal dimensions of religious cosmologies, and the everyday temporalities of life in a major Indian city. The project thereby aims to enrich the Priority Program »Ästhetische Eigenzeiten« by offering comparative perspectives from a megacity of the global south, and by foregrounding the media-technological conditioning of senses of being in time.