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'Ashura in Bahrain: Analyses of an Analytical Event

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Abstract:

'Ashura is an annual Shi'i ritual commemorating the death of Imam Husayn at the Battle of Karbala in AD 680. In Bahrain, the ritual runs for two weeks and involves processions with more than 100,000 participants. Bahrain is a small but ethno-sectarian heterogeneous island state, where a Sunni minority dominates a Shi'i majority. The religious ritual of 'Ashura therefore has deep political connotations, and a variety of analyses, aspirations, and actions are played out in the context of the ceremonies. This article discusses 'Ashura from the various viewpoints of participants and observers, thereby raising the question of the relationship between analysis and event. I argue that the ritual itself includes an interpretation of the relationship between the Sunni and Shi'i sects, and that this leads to a variety of reflections among Bahrainis on what 'Ashura is and should be.

Keywords: BAHRAIN; EVENT ANALYSIS; ISLAM; POLITICS; RITUALS; SHI'A; SUNNI

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/sa.2010.540302

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • Social Analysis has long been at the forefront of anthropology's engagement with the humanities and other social sciences. In forming a critical, concerned, and empirical perspective, it encourages contributions that break away from the disciplinary bounds of anthropology and suggest innovative ways of challenging hegemonic paradigms through 'grounded theory', analysis based in original empirical research. The journal invites contributions directed toward a critical and theoretical understanding of cultural, political, and social processes, as well as the work of active ethnographic researchers who study the forces involved in the production of human suffering, poverty, prejudice, war, and violence.
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