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Sacred texts and identity construction in the Cardiff Muslim community: sojourners’ narratives about 'majales'

Al-Bundawi, Zayneb 2018. Sacred texts and identity construction in the Cardiff Muslim community: sojourners’ narratives about 'majales'. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

My PhD research investigates how Shi‘i Muslim women in Cardiff participate in religious rituals and draw on religious texts in ways that help to construct their identities as diasporic Muslims. The religious rituals involved are the majales of Muharram and Safar, the first two months of the Islamic calendar, which are dedicated to commemorate the memory of Hussein, Prophet Muhammad‘s grandson and the third Shi‘i Imam according to Twelver Shi‘a. Majales (sing. majlis) are gatherings of people for the commemoration of the memory of Hussein and the battle of Karbala. Understanding the dynamics of a particular community is essential in investigating how identities are constructed within this community and by adopting an ethnographic approach this understanding and investigation are expected to be achieved. Considering the intricate relationship between the participants‘ religious practices and the ways in which sacred texts are taken up and used, an ethnographic approach would also allow me to address these two aspects equally. This is why I carried out fieldwork for four months during two successive years, 2014 and 2015. During this period I undertook participant-observation in an Islamic Centre in Cardiff and conducted interviews with Shi‘i Muslim women who participated in the rituals. The women involved in this study are female students, mostly PhD students, or spouses of male students whose stay in the United Kingdom is bound to their study, i.e. they are (academic) sojourners. The use of interviews as a method, particularly semi-structured interviews, offered the participants the opportunity to talk about their practices through a narrative mode. Deppermann (2013a: 67) indicates that ―narratives provide particularly powerful resources for positioning‖. Through narratives people take positions towards their past selves or towards others. In his seminal article ―Positioning between Structure and Performance‖, Michael Bamberg (1997a) comes up with the idea of ‗Narrative Positioning‘, in which he argues that the process of positioning happens at three different levels. De Fina and Georgakopoulou (2012: 164) argue that Bamberg‘s model of narrative positioning has been adopted in many studies that involve interviews and conversational stories because ―it affords an analytical apparatus for linking local telling choices to larger identities‖. Bamberg‘s (1997a) model is applied to the analysis of the narratives derived from interviews with these Shi‘i Muslim women. This model consists of three different yet interrelated levels, where the first level is concerned with the story world and the relations that exist among characters. The second level is concerned with the story-telling world and the interaction that takes place between the interlocutors. The moral/ social world is what the third level focuses on and how narrators define themselves in relation to the wider context, i.e. beyond the local level of interaction. The analysis has been supplemented with observations from my ethnographic work and suggests how the women use the narratives to perform complex identity work through which they orient to the symbols and core values of their ―imagined homeland‖ and draw on these to validate the diverse roles they fulfil and the practices they have adopted in the diaspora context. In talking about majales and their practices in both homeland and diaspora, participants display and reflect on the different roles they take, including being teachers, advice-givers and critics of others‘ behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Funders: HCED Iraq
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 November 2018
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2018 13:30
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/117240

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