CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Ana De Lemos Tomás

Ana De Lemos Tomás

PhD Student
Field(s): Ethnology / Social Anthropology
Institutional affiliation(s): EHESS

Professional contact information



Dissertation director: Michel Boivin

PhD program: EHESS - Social Anthropology and Ethnology

Initial registration: 2011


The Saints of Tirath: Memory, Genealogy, and Sacred Space in the Upper Swat valley, Northwest Pakistan


The Tirath Council, located in the upper Swat valley (Pakistan), is composed of approximately twelve villages and inhabited mainly by Akhūnd Khel families. According to their claim, the Akhūnd Khel are descendants of Miāṇ Abdul Karīm Dad (1572-1665), the eldest son of Akhūnd Darwezah (d. 1638-39), both religious figures and prolific writers of their time. Akhūnd Darwezah,  Miāṇ Abdul Karīm Dad, and their descendants, have had a significant impact on the preaching of Islam in the upper parts of the Swat. Miāṇ Abdul Karīm Dad died in 1665 at the capture of Tirath, fighting the Kāfirs (infidels). Several Gūjar families working for the Akhūnd Khel also inhabit the area. Gūjars are an ethnic group of herdsmen, and whose ecological niche is located in the foothills surrounding Tirath.

The area is profuse with the presence of martyrs’ graves (shahīds). I have identified several of these sites around which there is now pilgrimage activity, and have chosen to divide these places into to categories based on their location or settings: the graves of shahīds, along the banks of the Swat river; the graves within the main villages of Tirath; and, finally, the graves located in the foothills.

Combining secondary literature with primary sources, I formulate my arguments within particular anthropological and historical theories regarding the nature of myth, identity, and, land and sacred spaces—such as graveyards and graves of shahīds—seen here as a strategy of settlement. Furthermore, I interrogate the problematic surrounding land in regards to ownership, recognizing land as a strategic site of memory and of re-construction of identity by the families inhabiting the area—claiming to be descendants of ‘saints’—and how it can be manipulated in order to define and claim power, status and influence. I also consider the establishment of shrines and other pilgrimage centers as strategies as well, not only for re-enacting centers of power but also as strategies for vertical mobility. I am interested in the mutations which have occurred throughout history, which idioms have been applied in these socially-upward mobilities, and how they were affected by the idiom of sainthood.


KEY WORDS: Memory, genealogy, land tenure system, sacred space and landscape, identity, saints, Pakistan, Swat valley.


Research themes

Pakistan and South Asia



Province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

System of Exploration of Land and Property

Conflicts and Mediation of Conflicts


Memory and Genealogy

Sacred Space

Sacred Landscape





2017 | “Dhikr: através do labiríntico círculo da infinidade” [“Dhikr: through the labyrinthic circle of infinity]”, in Da Insaciabilidade no caso ou ao mesmo tempo um milagre, Teatro Municipal do Porto - Rivoli, Porto, Portugal (31 May)

2017 | Presentation of PhD research in a seminar (Master’s of Anthropology), Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD), Vila Real, Portugal (April 2017).

2015 | « État de la recherche: Soufisme et propriété terrienne à Swat », research seminar entitled « Politique et Autorité dans le Soufisme Contemporaine », École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France (4 June)

2015 | “Land, Death, and Identity: Saint-Martyrs in the Upper Swat Valley, Northwest Pakistan”, PhD Conference of the Centre d’Études de l’inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France. (11 May)

2014 | “The Saints of Tirat Valley in Swat: (Re)-Creation of Sacred Space”, 24th International Pakistan History and Historiography of South Asia Conference, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan (14-16 April)

2013 | Presentation of the book: Benjamin D. Hopkins and Magnus Marsden (eds.), Beyond Swat. History, Society, and Economy Along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier, 2013, research seminar entitled « Histoire et Anthropologie des Sociétés Musulmanes dans L’Asie du Sud Contemporaine », École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France (6 February)

2012 | “Land and Conflict in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa: A Case Study of Hazar Khwani”, Paper presented at the International Conference on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, organized by the National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and Pakistan Study Center, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan (28-30 November)

2009 | (with Umme Salma) “Koran-e-Pak: Experiências Migratórias, Narrativas Identitárias e Religiosas”, IV Congresso da Associação de Antropologia (APA), “Classificar o Mundo”, Lisbon, Portugal. (9-11 September)


Other projects

2017 | Da insaciabilidade no caso ou ao mesmo tempo um milagre - Artistic performance/ Multidisciplinary project

Multidisciplinary project "Da insaciabilidade no caso ou ao mesmo tempo um milagre", organized by Hugo Calhim Cristovão and Joana von Mayer Trindade (sponsored by the Calouste Gulbenkian, Portuguese Directorate-General for the Arts, GDA Foundation, with artistic residences of the Teatro Municipal do Porto, Companhia Instável, and Centre National de la Dance, Paris).

See: http://www.esap.pt/noticias/da-insaciabilidade-no-caso-ou-ao-mesmo-tempo-um-milagre

2015 | Swat-Nama: Deambulações Etnográficas no Vale do Swat - Photo exhibition [Swat-Nama: Ethnographic Wanderings in the Swat valley, Northwest of Pakistan]

February- March 2017 Cadeira de Van Gogh, Porto, Portugal

The photographs presented at the exhibition showcased fieldwork conducted in Tirath, Swat valley (2014), as part of the ongoing PhD thesis in Ethnology and Social Anthropology (2011-), at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), and the Centre de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS), Paris, and funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Government of Portugal.

This exhibition takes its title from a seventeenth-century manuscript, Swāt-nāma, written by Khushāl Khān Khattak (1613-1689), a prominent Pashtun writer and poet, during his visit to the Swat Valley, Pakistan, in 1674. Swāt-nāma, a poetic travelogue, contains descriptions of geographic, cultural, political, and historical aspects of this region. As in the Swāt-nāma, the exhibition aims at a visual documentation of the region, offering a glimpse of its landscapes and populations. It highlights smithereens of daily life in Tirath, Upper Swat valley.



Doctoral Fellowship (January 2012 - December 2015)

Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Government of Portugal (SFRH / BD / 76103 / 2011)

FCT PhD Grant for the development of the PhD project “The Saints of Tirath: Memory, Genealogy, and Sacred Space in the Upper Swat valley, Northwest Pakistan" [previous title: ‘Land, Tribe and Conflict in the Swat Valley, Northwest Pakistan’]



Last update: 10 October 2017


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