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Saturday, September 27 • 15:51 - 16:10
"Holy Selfie: Young People, Pilgrimage and Social Media"

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Background: Completing the pilgrimage to Mecca (known as Hajj) represents one of the most profound experiences in the life of a Muslim. In recent years, we have seen an increase in pilgrims posting pictures and videos of themselves while at Hajj and posting these on youtube, facebook, etc. The importance of information sharing as testimonial (“I was there”) and as a means to document one’s journey is not new; yet, these emergent practices are significant in the context of young people’s expressions of spiritual and religious identities.

Objective: The paper aims to demonstrate how an analysis of a specific genre of selfie (the “holy” selfie, named after the location of the holy Kaaba and other holy sites in Mecca and Madinah where they were taken) provides a vocabulary and set of techniques for examining the “work” of the selfie (as evidence, as conversation, as affect). In doing so, this paper highlights youthful expressions of religious and spiritual identities and contributes to the emerging area of cyberpilgrimage.

Methods: We conducted a visual analysis of 50 selfies (including the contextual information and interpretation around them). We complemented these with in-depth interviews with seven young pilgrims who partook in holy selfies  and asked them about the rationale and meaning of their practice.

Results: Preliminary analysis showed the significant variation in status among people who engaged in the practice, along with the importance given to the formation of connections among Ummah (community) members as a rationale for sharing the selfie.

Conclusions: Despite being a pivotal, transformational moment in the social and religious life of the pilgrim, there is a dearth of research on the informational aspects of this phenomenon. This study examines the selfie within the context of the unifying set of rituals performed in the Muslim world (Clingingsmith 2009: 1134), as well as an embodiment of the transhistorical and transnational Muslim community in the digital era.

Clingingsmith, D.; Khwaja, A. & ; Kremer, M. (2009). "Estimating the Impact of The Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering." The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124(3), 1133-1170.


Susan Beazley

Graduate Student, Master of Information, University of Toronto
avatar for Nadia Caidi

Nadia Caidi

University of Toronto

Saturday September 27, 2014 15:51 - 16:10
TRS 1-149 Ted Rogers School of Management

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