Exploring Contemporary Shi’ism in European and Middle Eastern Contexts (Panel III-II)

Dr. Marios Chatziprokopiou – University of Thessaly

Performing Ashura in Piraeus: towards a Shiite poetics of ‘cultural intimacy’

The performance of the Ashura in Piraeus as performed by a group of Pakistani Shia Muslims, with a particular emphasis on the Greek political and cultural context. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with archival research, I explore how this ritual is mediated by Greek media and film. The presentation aims at unfolding Greek neo-orientalist and islamophobic discourses regarding the ‘Asian excess’ or ‘backwards barbarism’of lament, in connection to similar arguments from the Muslim world. These rhetorics are juxtaposed with more tolerant views, but also with arguments of my interlocutors themselves regarding the ‘cultural intimacy’ of their ritual lament with Greek embodied practices of religiosity. Finally, dominant narratives of the ‘national self’ are juxtaposed with the discourses and practices of the migrant Shiite community of Piraeus, focusing on the symbolic and practical uses of blood: from murderous threats of Neo-Nazi groups against them, to their rejected intention for a blood-donation campaign parallel to the Ashura.