The Politics of Collective Mourning Negotiating Power at the Intersection of Shi’ism, Gender, and Popular Culture in Iran
- Author(s): Momeni, Esha
- Advisor(s): Hale, Sondra
- Mankekar, Purnima
- et al.
My dissertation, The Politics of Collective Mourning: Negotiating Power at the Intersection of Shi’ism, Gender, and Popular Culture in Iran, examines the social and political role of Shi’i collective mourning rituals, specifically nohe rituals, in the post-revolutionary Iran. These rituals commemorate the death of the Shi’i Imams and are essential to Shi’i cultural paradigms and identities. Moreover, they have played an important role in the legitimation of the Iranian state since their popularization in the sixteenth century. Although historically, women have participated in public mourning sessions in different forms, as audience and as storytellers, mourning rituals are spaces within which masculinity is defined and practiced and homosocial relationships between men are developed. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, these mourning ceremonies have gone through major semantic and performative shifts. In recent years, the state has started the process of institutionalizing the mourning rituals and groups by creating governmental structures to organize, supervise, and surveille them. In the past decade, with the financial support of the state, mourning groups have doubled in number, making up the largest cultural and advertisement network in the Shi’i world. In reaction, a grassroot movement began that departed from the rituals’ traditional manners in both content and form to serve as a public political medium and voice radical criticism of political structures and economic conditions. Despite their cultural, social, and political significance, nohe rituals remain understudied in the scholarly literature. Examining the radical semantic and performative changes in the practices of these rituals, my research seeks to understand how the negotiations and confrontations between the contemporary Iranian state and citizens that take place at the site of mourning rituals, are informed by gender, class, and politics.