Afraid of the Minaret? Ethnographic elaborations on the semiology of illustrated arguments
(Harvard University )
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents several Mosque drawings the ethnographer collected in an attempt to visually define a site of fantasy. The questions arrising are the following: To what extent does this field method incorporate verbal arguments? What are the available theoretical tools anthropologists could use in order to make sense of visual data?
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on an account of a highly mediated debate over the establishment of a Muslim complex in the Greek capital city. This was a governmental initiative which never materialized in fear of strong reactions such a project might trigger in the small suburban town of P where the mosque and its cultural center were supposed to be built. But was there really such a possibility? For some of the locals, a mosque in P would stand as a symbol of peaceful future coexistence and true European integration, while others thought of it as a possible shelter for terrorists and a painful reminiscent of Greece's Ottoman past. In an attempt to visually define the mosque as an uneasy site of fantasy at the level of ethnographic praxis, some of the informants are asked to draw one. This activity which mainly took place in bars, cafes and restaurants was generally considered bizarre, yet joyful enough enabling people to manifest their artistic dispositions. Nevertheless, for the ethnographer documenting the drawing process and its outcome, the material collected not only offers a semiology of illustrated arguments but also suggests that such a research method could well bring to the level of consciousness deep interconnections of romantic orientalism, nationalism, and male anatomy.
Fragile transitions: from coexistence to the emergence of hatred, a comparative approach between Southeast Asia and South-East Europe