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Narrating the pilgrimage to Mecca: experiences, emotions, and meanings


Narrating the pilgrimage to Mecca: experiences, emotions, and meanings

Conveners: Prof. Dr. Marjo Buitelaar (University of Groningen) & Dr. Richard van Leeuwen (University of Amsterdam).

Date: 12 & 13 December 2019.

Venue: University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Key note speakers:

  1. Professor Seán McLoughlin (University of Leeds)
  2. To be announced


Professor Simon Coleman (University of Toronto)

Given the centrality of Mecca and the hajj in the Islamic tradition and its increasing popularity as a religious travel-destination since the nineteenth century, it seems surprising that Meccan pilgrimage – including both hajj and umra – has virtually escaped the attention of scholars on modern Muslim life. While a number of recent studies focus on the history of the hajj, particularly in colonial times, pilgrims’ personal experiences have not yet received much attention. This conference endeavors to remedy this neglect by exploring how pilgrims from different times and places in the world have narrated their experiences of the hajj and umra.


The main focus of this conference is on the pilgrims’ lived engagement with the rituals of the hajj,  Meccan space and their fellow pilgrims. It studies how pilgrims have made sense of Meccan pilgrimage by asking how their in what ways do they select from and creatively combine cultural discourses and emotional repertoires in their stories about expectations, experiences and recollections of Muslim pilgrimage ?  How do these stories relate to the wider sets of social relations, cultural contexts and power structures they are embedded in?  


Additionally, it explores the ways this engagement is informed by the various cultural discourses in which Muslims have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and articulated their experience of it. In particular, the conference explores the ways in which the experience the pilgrimage to Mecca, most specifically but not exclusively the hajj,  has been articulated in relation to the self and society. We are especially interested in oral and written accounts on the impact of modernity on the pilgrimage experiences of individual Muslims in the period from 1850 until the present day, but  do not exclude the exploration of earlier sources and texts.

For more information: