Call for papers for prearranged panel on « The Role of Photoportraits in Islamic Funerary Traditions », 16th Colloquium of the Ernst Herzfeld-Gesellschaft | Ernst Herzfeld Society in Rome — LIMITE : 15/02/2020

Call for papers for prearranged panel on 

The Role of Photoportraits in Islamic Funerary Traditions

(Deadline February 15th, 2020)


For presentation in

The Arts and Archaeology of Funerary Cultures in Islam
16th Colloquium of the Ernst Herzfeld-Gesellschaft | Ernst Herzfeld Society
Rome, Sapienza University, July 2-4, 2020

The theological objections to figurative visual art have been active from the early periods in the history of Islam and have successfully prohibited the entrance of visual representations of human beings into any part of the religious life of the Muslim communities. To many observers, visualization and seeing are central to the recollection of holiness and saintly power; to the dissemination of religious knowledge; to the transformation of emotions; to cultic behaviour; and to the understanding of ethical values and spiritual experiences. Therefore, there are complex relationships between the visual, the unseen and Islamic aesthetical practices and sensory experiences (Khosronejad 2019, 182-3). 

Like other societies, also among Islamic lands and Muslim communities, since the advent of photography, photoportraits are not only being used for immortalising the dead; they are also being used as religious material culture and devotional devices for evoking the gaze of mourners, devotees and pilgrims. Today, in all private, public or institutional Islamic funeral ceremonies and rituals, and also in cemeteries, shrines and mortuary sanctuaries, we observe the usage of photoportraits of the deceased. These mortuary visual arts and funerary material cultures are being used as temporary posters or flyers use in death rituals and ceremonies, imbedded in tombstones or installed on top of them, or being hung as framed pictures on the wall of shrines or private family funerary chambers.

In this panel, with the help of interdisciplinary research methods, we aim to discuss and study the different meaning(s) and diverse function(s) of photoportraits of the deceased (ordinary people, martyrs, Sufi masters, saints and the Prophet Mohammad) in the context of death and dying among Muslim communities and devotees. Topics of interest may include but are not limited to:

  • Photoportraits of the Prophet Mohammad and Saints as visual devotional devices in funerary chambers and shrines,

  • The role of photoportraits of Muslim martyrs of contemporary conflicts in the construction of mortuary landscapes, sacred sites and material religion: shrines, memorials, cemeteries, and tombstones,

  • The usage of photoportraits of martyrs in the creation and the development of the culture of death and dying among Muslim communities: funerary art objects and devotional devices, pilgrimage souvenirs, etc.,

  • The usage of photoportraits of the deceased and martyrs in the creation of temporary and secondary shrines in private (homes, military spaces, etc.) and public places (museums, exhibitions, memorials, warfronts, etc.).

Please submit a title, an abstract of no more than 500 words presenting your topic (including five keywords), and your academic affiliation by Feb. 15th, 2020 to Dr. Pedram Khosronejad, Religion and Society Research Cluster, Western Sydney University, Sydney. Speakers will be in charge of their full costs including travel, accommodation and the membership fee. 

For the general information regarding the main program, please visit:


Used reference:

Khosronejad, Pedram, “The Ahl‐I Beyt Bodies: the mural painting of Lahijan in the tradition of Persian Shiite figurations,” in Figuration and Sensation in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, eds. Birgit Meyer and Terje Stordalen (2019, London: Bloomsbury), 172‐184.

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