An evening of lectures: Urban Muslim Space. An Anthropological View


From 26 October 2019




Garage Education Center


Three lectures delivered by German anthropologists focus on the study of urban Muslim space.

Manja Stephan-Emmrich’s field research is based around Tajik migrants’ vision of Dubai and the role of this city in the formulation and reformulation of Muslim identity. By explaining his investigation of practices and ideas associated with particular “places of worship”, Jeremy F. Walton will address the past and present of the Muslim communities of Thessaloniki, Zagreb, and Banja Luka. Finally, Katarzyna Puzon investigates the material and visual Muslim cultures of Berlin and Beirut—two seemingly diverse cities that in fact have a lot in common, inluding their military past, multiculti present, and an intense migratory history of yesterday and today.

“Making Dubai a Muslim Place: Imagination, Work, and Piety”. A lecture by Manja Stephan-Emmrich

This lecture addresses the dynamic interplay of Muslim mobility, imagination, and placemaking in the migratory experience of Tajiks in Dubai. It shows how through different forms of work (trade and tourism business, emotion, and imagination work) Tajik men and women make a place in Dubai’s cosmopolitan economic, social, and religious urban spaces. Adopting a translocality perspective, the lecture focuses on the role travelling religious ideas and objects play in mobilizing for and experiencing Dubai as part of desirable Islamic lifestyle projects. Following urban narratives of modernity and progress, the lecture also illustrates how Tajik migrants refashion their Muslim selves through constructing, mediating, and marketing the ‘idea’ of Dubai as an ideal place that serves Muslim middle class dreams and desires.

“Places of Worship, Spaces of Representation: Mosque Histories across the Balkans”. A lecture by Jeremy F. Walton

Places of worship are, by nature, deeply immersed in the flow of times past, present, and future. Temples and shrines, synagogues and churches are both archives of communal pasts and resources for religious futures. This is especially so when the communities that inhabit them are marginalized, sometimes even to a vanishing point. This lecture offers a comparative portrait of three spaces of Muslim belonging in the Balkans, with particular attention to their constitutive histories, contemporary configurations, and possible futures. First, a discussion about Thessaloniki’s New Mosque (Yeni Camii), the former site of worship for the unique, syncretic Ottoman dönme community that has recently been recruited to the project of excavating the city’s multi-religious and culturally plural past as a means to present-day urban investment. Next, an examination of the central Zagreb Mosque (Zagrebačka Džamija), one of the largest mosques constructed during the Yugoslav era and a key point of communal orientation for Muslims in Croatia and beyond. Finally, the Ferhadija Mosque (Ferhadija Džamija) in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka, which was only recently reconstructed following its devastation in the war of the 1990s, and remains a precarious space of Muslim identification in the Bosnian Serb capital. Throughout this presentation, the lecture will be attentive to each of these sites as “spaces of representation” in Henri Lefebvre’s sense, which seek to establish continuities between Muslim pasts and Muslim futures. The opportunities and challenges of representation that envelope each mosque and its community are inseparable from the layered histories of each space and its city.

“A Tale of Two Cities: Material and Visual Culture in Beirut and Berlin”. A lecture by Katarzyna Puzon

Material and visual cultures of cities provide insights and information about their complex histories and layers of time in the urban landscape. What readings of the past and the present do they offer in Beirut and Berlin? How does this play out in terms of imagining and thinking about cities recognised for their diversity and known for their wartime legacies and ongoing forms of migration? And how is the future envisaged in these two urban contexts? Reflecting upon similarities and differences in their distinct trajectories, this talk deals with these questions and explores Beirut’s and Berlin’s vibrant iterations, visual representations, and material manifestations. Taking into consideration recent developments and changes in the social landscape of both cities, the question of Islam and its diverse articulations in those urban settings is also addressed.

The event is organized with the support of the Institute of Social Policy and the School of Sociology at the Higher School of Economics, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Russia, and the Department of Labor, Social Affairs, and Health of the Embassy of Germany in Moscow.



Manja Stephan-Emmrich is Junior Professor of Islam in Asian and African Societies at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. As a regional scientist and sociocultural anthropologist, her main focus of research is on transregional Islam, Muslim mobilities, Islamic education, religion, and migration, as well as on Muslim women in the global economy, with a regional focus on Central Asia, the Gulf region, and the wider Middle East. She was head of the research project "Translocal Goods - Education, Work, and Commodities between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, and the Arab Emirates" from 2013 to 2016 (funded by the Volkswagen Foundation). Since September 2019, she has been in charge of the Central Asian research group in the collaborative research project "Women's Pathways to Professionalization in Muslim Asia. Reconfiguring Religious Knowledge, Gender, and Connectivity" (DFG). In her current monograph, she is investigating Muslim piety and post-national belonging in the context of work migration and Islamic education-based travel from Tajikistan to the Middle East. 


Dr. Jeremy F. Walton is the leader of the Max Planck Research Group, “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities,” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI-MMG) in Göttingen, Germany. Prior to his current position, he held research and teaching fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe at the University of Rijeka, the CETREN Transregional Research Network at Georg August University of Göttingen, Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, and New York University’s Religious Studies Program. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2009. Dr. Walton’s first book, Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2017), is an ethnographic exploration of the relationship among Muslim civil society organizations, state institutions, and secularism in contemporary Turkey. He has published his research in a wide selection of scholarly journals, including American Ethnologist, Sociology of Islam, The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, and Die Welt Des Islams. “Empires of Memory,” which Dr. Walton designed, is an interdisciplinary, multi-sited project on the cultural politics of post-imperial memory and history in eight former Habsburg and Ottoman cities: Vienna, Istanbul, Budapest, Sarajevo, Trieste, Thessaloniki, Zagreb, and Belgrade. His research in the context of “Empires of Memory” examines the ambivalent legacies and modes of amnesia that emerge from specific sites of memory in each of these cities.


Katarzyna Puzon is an anthropologist and a translator. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Her main research interests lie at the intersection of heritage, memory, mobility, and cities, as well as in anthropology as storytelling and its multimodality. In her ethnographic work on Beirut, she explored how multiple discourses and practices of urban heritage were mobilized and framed by ongoing changes in the city and engaged in future-making. Her current research focuses on Berlin, where she examines the politics and poetics of representation and recognition, primarily in relation to Islam and heritage-making, as part of the project Making Differences in Berlin: Transforming Museums and Heritage in the 21st Century. Katarzyna has authored a number of publications, including “Memory and Artistic Production in a Post-War Arab City” (in Post-Conflict Performance, Film and Visual Arts: Cities of Memory, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and “Saving Beirut: heritage and the city” (International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2017).


Dmitriy Oparin is an anthropologist. He holds a Candidate of Historical Sciences degree from Moscow State University. He is Senior Lecturer in the Ethnology Department of the History Faculty at Moscow State University and a researcher at the Institute for Social Policy at the Higher School of Economics. His Candidate thesis (2015) examined contemporary ritual space in coastal Chukotka, where he has done fieldwork (2011–2012, 2019). Since 2013 he has been researching the anthropology of Islam. He has carried out fieldwork in Russia (Moscow Region, Yamal, Tomsk, Irkutsk), France, Belgium, and Germany. Recent publications include: “Spiritual authority and religious introspection among Muslim migrants in Western Siberia” (Problems of Post-Communism, 2019); “Locals and immigrants on the Yamal Peninsula. Social boundaries and variations in migratory experience” (Asian Ethnicity, 2018); and Migration and contemporary Muslim space in Moscow. Contextualizing North Caucasian loud dhikr and the religious practices of Central Asian ‘Folk Mullas’” (Contemporary Islam, 2018). His paper “Possession and exorcism in the Muslim migrant context,” based on two years of research in Moscow Region among Tajik mullahs specializing in healing with Qu’ran is forthcoming.

how to take part

Free admission with advance registration.

The lectures are in English with simultaneous interpretation to Russian.