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Department of Social Anthropology


Iterations of disclosure and disavowal – or the performative confession of love or hate - are mutually entwined in the holism of Shi’i Islamic ethics. Together, these obligations provide the means of cultivating faith in ways that might be playful, joyful,

and irreverent. At a fifth of the population, the Shi’a form the largest religious minority in Pakistan where they occupy a precarious position in relation to a Sunni-Islamic majority state. Despite the threat of marginalization and violence, finding new avenues through which to practice publicity has become central to Shi’i groups’ demands for recognition. Seizing on an upsurge in social media usage, new digital collectives built from existing prayer unions use Facebook and TikTok to disclose their faith and disavow their enemies through the affective qualities of live recording, satirical performance, and recitations that celebrate the virtues of divine figures.

Examining the affective conditions through which the Shi’a disclose their faith in Pakistan, this project will provide the empirical grounding for a new theory of ethical life through the study of “threshold media”. It is possible to understand contemporary political and religious life in an era of mass mediation as characterized by its thresholds, such as of outrage, heightened sentiment, or controversy. In this context, remaining on the middle ground while the poles of order and disorder realign involves heightened attunement not only to how things are but also to the changing boundaries of how they might be.

Data will be gathered through ethnographic research in Lahore and South Punjab, among the videographers, social media collectives, and events-organisers who publicise the commemoration of celebratory events in Shi’i public life.

Awarding Grant body: Leverhulme Trust (match-funded by the Isaac Newton Trust).

Leverhulme Trust / Isaac Newton Trust Early Career Fellow
Research Associate, Max Planck - Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change
College Research Associate, King’s College