Research in Sociology of Religion

Goffman’s dramaturgical framework has provided a rich conceptual repertoire for analyzing the performative aspects of social life and how we adapt our self-presentations depending on our targeted audiences. Yet scholars are just beginning to comprehend how advances in digital technology and the pervasive use of social media have transformed how people present their identities to proximate and distant audiences, and the tensions that may result from performing for multiple audiences simultaneously. PRASE examines these issues through an innovative study of public religious rituals performed locally but projected globally. Focusing on public rituals staged by Shia Muslims of South Asian descent in Europe, it examines how these rituals are structured by competing logics of religious and civic performativity oriented toward different audiences. For example, the impetus to engage in passionate displays of piety to impress Shia abroad (religious performativity) may clash with pressures to edit rituals in accordance with local norms and sensibilities (civic performativity). Such tensions are particularly salient with respect to Shia lamentation rituals, as they often entail practices of self- flagellation viewed by some as antithetical to civic values. These rituals and the discussions surrounding their organization constitute key sites of face-work and interaction between Shia minorities, state actors, and the broader public, where questions of integration are actively negotiated. The research for PRASE will combine historical investigation, rigorous multi-sited ethnography, and cutting-edge social media analysis. The ethnographic component will focus on Barcelona, Bonn, London, and Milan, four cities that will yield productive comparisons due to the disparate socioeconomic composition, migration trajectories, and ritual performances of their respective Shia communities, as well as their distinctive approaches to regulating public expressions of religiosity. The projects findings will provide crucial insight into the shifting dynamics of social performativity, the sources of religious innovation and transformation, and the changing interface between religion and citizenship amid the current digital revolution and the new opportunities it has afforded for transnational engagement.