Contemporary Karbala Narratives and the Changing Gender Dynamics in Shi'i Communities

Ali, Bizaa Zeynab

The Karbala narratives that are derivative from the historic battle of Karbala which is seen as a key moment in Shi'i history, form the basis of the Ashura commemorations and are therefore a defining paradigm in Shi'ism. In the earlier narratives, women were largely seen as passive victims of the Karbala tragedy and know largely through the trials and tribulations they faced. In the past few decades however a gender-dynamic transformation has taken place with regards to the transmission of the Karbala narrative which has consequently bought about renewed attention to and a re-evaluation of the role of women in the aftermath of the Karbala battle. This paper will focus on the changed gender constructions in the popular Karbala narratives in the differing contexts of Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and underline the agentative role of Zaynab as a common factor in these transformations in diverse cultural contexts. It will also highlight that the consequence of this transformation has multiple meanings and implications for the future presence of Shi'i women in the public sphere.

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Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Published Here
June 22, 2012