Miriam Stanke and Benjamin Raßbach have been collaborating in projects in East Turkey, Iran and Iraq since 2012.
Miriam Stanke is a German photographer mainly working in the field of documentary. Her long-term projects often focus on the notion of ethnic and cultural identity, migration and displacement as well as the aftermath of conflicts. Her travels to the Middle, far East and the Balkans brought an ever growing fascination for these regions which is reflected in her photography merging socio-political issues with an artistic vision.
In January 2015 she finished her Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication (LCC) where she received the Graduate Photographers Award by Magnum Photos and Photo London. Amongst other awards she also received the Flash Forward Award by Magenta Foundation and was shortlisted for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award Arles, the Kassel Book Dummy Award as well as the Bar- Tur Photobook Award in collaboration with the Photographers Gallery London for her project „And the Mountain said to Munzur: You, River of My Tears“.
Her work was exhibited at several shows including Backlight Festival (Finland), Athens Photo Festival (Greece), OFF Triennale Hamburg and OFF//FOTO Mannheim and Ludwigshafen as well as Kunstverein and port25 in Mannheim.
Miriam currently lives and works in Mannheim, South Germany.
Benjamin loves stories of all kinds – be they handed down by tradition or made up by imaginative minds. The passion for religions, philosophies, politics and languages has brought him to many Middle Eastern countries, where he conducted academic research, long-term documentaries and sometimes sheep herding, gardening and hitch-hiking.
He has completed a BA and an MA in both Anthropology and Religious Studies, alongside many years of courses in Arabic, Turkish and Persian.
Next to the post-colonial dynamics between the Middle East and Europe, Kurdistan has become a particular focus of his attention. Studying minority religious traditions in eastern Turkey, western Iran and northern Iraq, he also works about the political conflicts and struggles in this region.
Benjamin is a PhD student at Leipzig University, Germany. Supervised by Prof. Markus Dressler and Dr. Eszter Spät he works on sacred places in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq and eastern Turkey. Focussing on the Yezidi community and particularly on specific events around sacred places during the ISIS genocide in 2014-15, he draws comparisons to Kurdish-Alevi sacred places in Dersim and takes the Kurdish nationalist/liberation movements’ own sacralizations of space into account to discuss the ambiguous religio-political character of sacred space.
Drawing from a number of fieldwork periods in 2013-2021 he attempts to contribute to recent discussions about secularity and the general use of the term ‘religion’. Detailing examples such as the ‘miraculous defense of the Sherfedin shrine” against the ISIS attack he also connects to the scholarly tradition of critical geography and oral history studies. Examining the specific way in which actors draw boundaries between ‘religious’ and ‘political’ interpretations of events and places he contributes to the academic study of (sacred) space, critical theory of religion, and the scholarship of Kurdish minority religions and political movements.
Benjamin has presented his ongoing work on several conferences, next to co-organizing a workshop on sacred places of minority religions in the Middle East. Several forthcoming publications on Yezidi sacred spaces and the ISIS genocide will give an insight into his work in the coming months.