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Interreligious Cultural Practice as Lived Reality

The Case of Muslim and Orthodox Shepherds in Middle Albania

Eckehard Pistrick

This essay provides grass-roots insights into interreligiosity in Middle Albania. I focus on two individuals, Muslim Arif and Orthodox Anastas, to show how notions of cultural intimacy prevail over hegemonic discourses on religious identity that have re-emerged in postsocialist and 'post-atheist' Albania. The process of religious revitalisation took place simultaneously with a pervasive reshaping of local cultural identity. These discourses give simultaneously an opportunity for religious differentiation and symbolic contestations, as well as for diverse collaborations on a social, cultural and economic level. I illustrate how cultural intimacy is performed and cultivated as a shared practice of multipart singing, and understood by the local shepherds not as a marker of difference but as common ground for mutual dialogue. By sharing the social activity of singing the shepherds do not only form a 'sonic community' but also celebrate an interreligious 'community of friends'.