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Witnessing an Islamic Rite of Passage and a Local/Non-Local Articulation

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This paper examines power relations predicated on the recourse to a Muslim identity by the Luri inhabitants of a remote, inaccessible place in south-western Iran known for their tenuous observance of the Islamic rules propagated by the faith's gate-keepers at the centre. The Muslimhood is asserted by the Lurs as an articulation of localness within the wider national context through a ritual practice characterised by spatial paucity that facilitates the deployment of an image of a 'historical' precedent, an abstract narrative of the Muslim community (ummat) in diverse contexts. Thus, the specific spatial and temporal limits that condition their differentiated access to sources of power based on class, gender and race are superseded by the Lurs in an imagined 'horizontal comradeship' with others creating an anti-structural domain and a 'plebeian public sphere' in which ordinary people appear as the agents as well as beneficiaries of the expanding domain of politics through a forged brother/sisterhood. Effective in this universalisation of politics is the use of slogan as a genre devised to overcome the structural inequalities that characterise the encompassing national system. The greater the structural gap, the paper argues, the more appealing the ritualistic use of slogan as an accessible anti-structural device susceptible to articulate the sacred with the profane. The 'plebeian' use of slogan, therefore, increasingly exposes the contradictory practice of becoming a Muslim in a peripheral location.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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