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‘I love you more’: An account of performing ziyarat in Iraq

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This article reflects on fieldwork experience of performing ziyarat in Iraq in May 2014. It offers an embodied account of ziyarat rituals and practices, and discusses re/construction. It emphasizes that existing literature on ziyarat practices in Iraq is minimal, as is recent research on the country. This article approaches ziyarat as a sociopolitical performance that may simultaneously function as an individual response to the Karbala experience. It draws on El-Aswad’s exploration of ‘invisible realities’ and the ‘different logic’ of spiritual love in structuring Shia’ah ritual, and rapper Sulaiman’s use of ‘extreme love’ in understanding Islamic history. The approach follows on from Al-Adeeb’s work, and Al-Mohammad and Peluso’s call for attention to how creative and spiritual practices, and everyday experiences, can enhance our understanding of the continuation of life in Iraq. Five months since this research was conducted, the conditions of life in Iraq and potential ziyarat experiences described have been changed by the security situation and ISIS. This article must therefore be read as recent research that may have already become history.
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Keywords: Iraq; Shi’ah ritual; embodied; pilgrimage; practice; ziyarat

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Goldsmiths University

Publication date: May 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • merging from an international network project funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economics and Social Research Council, and research collaboration between academics and practitioners, Performing Islam is the first peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal about Islam and performance and their related aesthetics. It focuses on socio-cultural as well as the historical and political contexts of artistic practices in the Muslim world. The journal covers dance, ritual, theatre, performing arts, visual arts and cultures, and popular entertainment in Islam-influenced societies and their diasporas. It promotes insightful research of performative expressions of Islam by performers and publics, and encompasses theoretical debates, empirical studies, postgraduate research, interviews with performers, research notes and queries, and reviews of books, conferences, festivals, events and performances.
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