Andreas Bandak "Life and Story: Imitation, Co-exemplification, and the Question of Ethical Projects among Syrian Christians"
Departmental Seminar Series features Andreas Bandak, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen.
The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!
Copyright: University of Copenhagen
What does it mean to follow an example? What is a good example? Or for that matter what is a bad one? It is these questions this talk takes up in order to explore the particular role and effect of the use of examples in a social world to make heard, seen, and felt the presence of the divine. For the followers of the local devotion to Our Lady of Soufanieh in Damascus, Syria, these are fundamental questions as they seek to promote her fame and, by extension, the claim to sainthood of contemporary visionary and stigmatic Myrna Akhras, who since 1982 has spread a message of faith, love, and unity. These questions are important for Syrian Christians as they grapple with their own existence in a turbulent region, and work towards fashioning a viable existence for Christianity in the Middle East.
For the followers of Our Lady of Soufanieh, the modeling of sainthood has to start in their own lives. Each of the followers has his or her story that is fashioned around the happenings in Soufanieh and the relationship with Our Lady of Soufanieh and Myrna. The life of the individual must not simply attend to the message of Our Lady of Soufanieh but also co-exemplify it in words and, more importantly, deeds. This also means that the followers live up to the example in the eyes of their fellow followers to differing degrees. Some are seen to embody the example more fully than others. However, each is hoped to become more and more like the example. This talk attends to the relationship between life and story and to how particular persons are more adept at molding their lives in accordance with the example of Myrna. In order to do so, this talk follows two different persons, Rima and Fadi, and their markedly different positions amongst the followers of Our Lady of Soufanieh. Rima is widely regarded as a good example, Fadi conversely as a bad example. In this Rima has modeled her life upon Myrna’s, and she is by extension seen as a worthy representative of Soufanieh. Accordingly, the talk deals with ordeals in living and getting things right within a religious community, and it argues that moral failures in life may instigate even more ardent attempts to conform to the ideal hereby pushing the anthropological turn to ethics to consider questions of imitation, co-exemplification, and ethical projects.
Andreas Bandak has specialised in anthropological studies of Christianity, in particular Christianity as a lived religion. Most recently, Bandak has studied Christian minorities in Syria and the themes of prayer, the power of examples, and the stakes of co-existence. Bandak has also investigated figures of sainthood and the diverse relationships people hold towards religious authorities, and the interplay between orthodox and popular religion.
His work has been published in a number of prominent journals including Current Anthropology, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Ethnos, and Religion and Society. He has co-edited the volumes Politics of Worship in the Contemporary Middle East: Sainthood in Fragile States (with Mikkel Bille, 2013) and Qualitative Analysis in the Making (with Daniella Kuzmanovic, 2014). Publications