Light flowing from the heart: A discussion of how audiovisual media and microphenomenological interviews can be used to describe religious experience – A Presentation of scenes from an ethnographic film project

Link to join the seminar on Teams

An Egyptian friend gave me a simple advice: "Stop focusing on the darkness in this world: Look at the light"; an approach to life he himself had learned after having been in and out of Salafism as well as through two failed revolutions before he found relief in a different form of religious devotion that is rising in post-revolutionary Egypt. I took the advice and together with the Egyptian filmmaker Mohammad Mustafa, the photographer Amira Mortada, and the philosopher Omar Rakhawy, I embarked on a search for the light in the Egyptian capital, Manfalot, Alexandria, Humaitharaa, and in Aarhus, Denmark. 

Recorded between 2014-2020, this film documents our journey through the lights of the city, the Nile, and the desert. In addition the film documents an inner search for answers; what is the light, what does it do, how can there be so much darkness and light in this world and inside ourselves.

In the presentation I reflect upon the use of film and microphenomenology to examine subjective experiences of light: encounters with forms of luminosity that are often accompanied by synesthetic sensations of connection and of being embraced, held, fed or filled, often emerging from or linked to the heart as the perceptive organ. Research participants sometimes describe these experiences as encounters with the divine. Contrary to research that assesses such experiences as exceptional, many research participants regard them as a foundational dimension of their existence that they seek to become more aware of in their everyday lives.

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Trinity 2021

Online on Teams (the link is above)

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm (Weeks 1-3) and at 5pm in Week 4

Convened by Dolores Martinez