Taziyeh in Motion: The Traveling Culture of Iranian Muharram Theater

What are some of the ways that the Ashura mourning plays of ta’ziyeh get translated when traveling to foreign lands? What elements of the tradition are altered and similarly, what elements are kept in tact? How can a foreign audience negotiate themselves as alternative spectators? Can ta’ziyeh be a site of travel in itself? Exploring possible answers to such questions allows leeway into the ever-evolving global discussion of our complex and entangled modernity.
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Karbala in Istanbul: Scenes from the Ashura Commemorations of Zeynebiye

Ashura is a day of mourning marked by Muslims around the world to commemorate the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, Hossein, and his compatriots. As a day of commemoration, it has been marked by people of all faiths across large swathes of South, Central, and Western Asia for centuries. This photo essay documents presents a look at the ritual in Istanbul’s Zeynebiye neighborhood in 2013, the center of the city’s Shia population.
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Constructing Sacred Space: An Architectural History of Mashhad’s Imam Reza Shrine

Like the city itself, the Imam Reza shrine complex grew gradually over time as political elites tried to establish their legitimacy. Rulers strove not only to appease the local religious establishment by funding elaborate building projects around the site, but also hoped to create physical testaments to their political authority. Due to the inherent political nature of these structures, the site was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt as it changed hands from dynasty to dynasty.
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Zoroastrian Pilgrimages and Muslim Saints: Tracing Modern Iranian Shi’ism at the Shrine of Chak Chak

Reciting the history-mythology surrounding the figure of Shahrbanu and her role in the dissemination of Islam to Iranians is a significant method of (re)producing a seamless continuity between the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s pre-Islamic and Zoroastrian culture. In this sense, the validity of the historic objective “truth” of these stories seems to be far less important than the cultural import that these stories convey to us about the nation’s sense of itself.
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