عجفت الغور

master's thesis

Tags: grad school

New Outline (September 10, 2022)

  • Similar to old one, but focused on the concept of change
  • start with institutions representing the past, and shaabi representing the future


  • What is a ritual? Literature review on the main ideas
    • I depart from these because
      • permanent/recurring pilgrimage (Shikoku pilgrims)
      • looking at people who service pilgrims, and how they see it as a permanent pilgrimage
      • ritualistic voyeurism
      • the confrontation of moral life and actual life create the space and confirm and create the power of religious symbols
      • symbols are imposed yet not seen to be created
  • In addition, this work serves as a brief overview of a history of Karbala, and it’s grapple with politics, militias, religious authority, and pilgrims, as well as an ethnographic account of ritual shaabi

Chapter 1 - The (near but distant) Past - Infrastructures

  • Institutions of mokwebs, radoods, and their history
  • Main character
    • Ali Qazwini
    • Ali the radood school teacher
  • Authority is mixed here, use this chapter to explain how political (hashd, religious authority, history)
  • The physical space of the shrines, where rituals perform next to each other, where funerals are next to other rituals, children running around as others bury the body
    • graduation ceremonies as well
  • Radood, poet, mowkeb, radat
    • radoods work with certain poets
      • each pmowkeb has a few poets that stay with them and write
      • anywhere there is a shrine there is a radat, in kathimiya, in najaf
      • taraf abassiyya is famous for having political mowkebs, even though everyone says they’re political
    • hasan kathim interview here
  • actual ritual performance in bayn haramiin, with signs, then howdij, then radat, and then ends with a latm
  • tatbir and it’s nature
  • how does the hashd and military feed into this? performance of “security” carried out
  • lala can and her book?
  • mowkeb facts
    • 3000 service mowkebs in Karbs
    • 75 from karbala itself
    • 115 majalis al-aza
    • people visit the administration for all sorts of reasons
    • each mowkeb is from a historical place, sometimes there is an expansion from the baladiyya
    • permissions needed:
      • interior ministry within the city
      • baladia
      • local permission
      • polics
    • each mokweb collects money from people
    • donations start the day after arabeen for the next year’s mowkeb
    • 90% (sus number) are wrong
    • new ones learn from the old ones
    • 200 make majlis
    • 3000 for services
  • radood school experience

Chapter 2 - The Present - Participation

  • Main character: Muntazir the radood
  • What does participating in a ritual look like?
  • Participating in ego boundary reduction
  • Karbalaei natives as a different type of prilgrim
  • Majlis experience, radoods
    • Zaman Hawnawi, again threats of being wal’ai
    • register of vernacular
    • majlis husseni and majlis aza
  • Latm and Radat draw in participants
  • talk about the differences between ritual shaabi and ritual 3di
    • hajj sayyid interview here

Chapter 3 - The Future as an Alternative Present - Repetition

  • main character, taraf abassiyya
    • list out the main old mowkebs here
  • The repetition and performance allows for a particular voyeuristic view
  • How is it voyeuristic? How does this create a different future?
    • self flattering notions, such as the guy faked who sings about putting dirt in their eyes
  • Notions of competition, and status making
  • Because it is so public, it serves as a platform for statements of piety or politics
  • Because it is an oral tradition, it must be constantly reproduced
    • Under saddam years, it’s noted that these rituals survived through houses
  • Because one has to be recognized as a pilgrim and a servant through this public nature
    • through this mutual recognition, we can see…something
    • they access a particular time through this harmonization
    • it’s not just about being a good pilgrim, but about being seen as a good pilgrim
    • finding husbands for women and showing off for men
  • Karbala offers a platform for the surival of rituals, people can envision a variety of futures (watan, hosa, religion, etc)
    • Azerbaijani flag, Iraqi flags
  • is this repetition to be in the presence of something, like the salafists


  • Audience view themselves as part of a shared understanding
  • future studies
    • Register of tradgey is particularly susceptible to notions of the future?
    • al-shur, ulema, criticisms of how people believe what the radood instead of what the shiekh says, contention of authority
    • tatbir and it’s fitna
    • zangeel
    • discrimination of karbala and baghdad

Outline - Forming the Present Through Husseiniyya Rituals

  • Each center chapter follows a single character and tries to focus the lens around them, zooming out to describe the concept
  • Goal is to move towards a theory of a constructed present
  • Starts with the center of the ritual (radood and audience), goes to describing the institutions, then goes to describe how a “normal” person participates


  • Thesis: rituals as a sight of constructing the present
  • Lead in: evoking the Imam as a nearhuman construction (Johnson - Automatic Religion)
    • Various rituals of approaching the shrine
  • One understudied area is the role of the radood
  • Main key is that the majlis with radood is a specific form ritual that binds individual and society, future and past
  • Main questions to answer:
    • How do ritual participants view themselves? Do they see rituals as subsuming the self?
    • What about the “violent” nature of specific rituals?
    • How are these rituals sustained?
  • Look to al-Wardi lamahat vol 2

Chapter 1 - Majilis Husseini/al-3aza Experience

  • Mainly enthographic chapter
  • Main character might be Mutathir the radood
  • Main questions to answer:
    • What is it like to be in a ritual? Radood audience interaction to draw in the audience
    • Where do the rituals happen? What contexts are they performed in?
      • What are the casual forms of difference (between Pakistani, Iraqi, Indian, etc)
    • What is invoked and evoked with the ritual? Is it saddness for Hussein (as some ritual participants have said), or is it something more?
    • Banal nature of the rituals, and how it is not necessarily different than music festivals
      • The banality of these rituals actually make it much more interesting, because it reveals how easily new views of the world are fashioned even without a clear sacred/profane distinction
    • Look to Geertz here, what symbols are floating around? For Sahlins, what kind of kinship is being produced in this moment? How are the symbols alive here (al-Shur?)
      • Also potentially useful to look at Tanya Luhrmann’s work on Evanglicial Christian prayers and esoteric mental states of trance

Chapter 2 - Institutions of the Radoods and Mowkebs

  • Investigative chapter around what religious institutions sustain the radoods
  • Main character: Ali the radood school teacher
    • How does Ali engage by creating the institution of radoods
    • Who comes to school? What are their backgrounds?
  • Questions to answer
    • What seemingly non-religious work needs to be done to sustain this structure?
    • How is authority created? Who creates these authorities, and are they done by the “religious” or “secular”? Is that even an useful distinction to draw here?

Chapter 3 - Majilis as a pilgrimage

  • Main character: Fathal the security guard
    • Karbalaei native, but not particularly religious
    • Goal is to show how “regular” people engage with religion
  • Look to Asad here, what types of self is attempting to be molded by going to this pilgrimage?
  • How do pilgrims signal to each other about the status of their pilgrimage? How does the shrine institutions support this?
  • This chapter might be cut or revised, it’s a little vague right now


  • Husseiniyya rituals draw in the audience and participants through N ways
  • This allows the audience to view themselves in a different way, constructing a different present
  • One underaddressed aspect within this study is the register of tragedy, which is potential for future work



  • Reintegration of Iraqi Militias
    • PMF Command Structures
      • PMF command structures are vastly different, from KH’s Hezbollah-like situation to brigade 30
        • Money laundering and ghost soldiers
        • Who is lining their pockets and benefiting from different command structures?
    • Sectarian conflicts
      • PMF cross cuts class, race, and religion
        • Shia Turkmen, Christians, pro-sistani vs pro-iran
      • What kind of nationalism is being created? Alternatively, what kinds of sub-state nationalism (borrowing Toby Dodge) is being created?
    • Similar reintegration histories?
      • Peacebuilding in
        • Balkans
          • Reintegration of Bosnia mujahadeen?
          • “Recyled” militia in Serbia armed groups?
        • Lebanon
          • Hezbollah and similarities there?
        • Nepal
          • Ideaologically driven - were maoist. Does this hold similarities?
        • Afghanistan
          • Taliban
        • Namibia
        • Colombia
          • Paramilitary demobilization, and it’s failures
        • Chechnya
          • Militias as spoilers of the Chechen state, does this occur in Iraq?
        • Ivory Coast
          • “Warrior generation”, political violence similar levels, are there models to be drawn here?
    • Post-conflict peacebuilding within formal state structures
      • The Iraqi state did not totally collapse and fought off an insurgency, is this different than integrating militias in newly formed states?
      • External actors
        • UNAMI
        • US
        • Iran
        • etc
    • Mechanics of peacebuilding
      • Combants to civilains -> Has this happened?
      • Post-conflict state -> Has Iraqi society reached “post-conflict”? What determines post-conflict?
    • “Big” questions
      • Current government framing of Iraq
        • Lack of legitmacy on several key institutions
          • “Supreme” court has no constitutional legitmacy
      • KRG
        • Resolved issues of KRG disputes, how do the peshmerga fit into this equation?
      • What constitutes as “rehabilitation” and “reintegration”?
        • UN has often sought “reintegration” by waiting it out, which has rarely worked. Succesful examples are Nepal and Namibia, which sought greater reintegration via massive state-sponsered jobs programs
          • How does this change in a world of low interest rates? Namibia and Nepal had difficulties borrowing money, does the shift in the global markets affect this?
        • “Big” reintegration - who are the funders of reintegration for previous states? Who funds reintegration for the Iraqi state?
          • Who directs reintegration? Often times funded and directed in DC, but acted upon in other states
        • What do we reintegrate back into? Reintegration implies return to prewar “normalcy” – the same conditions that gestated the conflict.
          • Sierra Leone of 2005 looks like the Sierra Leone of 1991
          • What structural changes are available?
            • What does this look like in the backdrop of Arab Spring? Of the 2019/2020 protests?
    • Unknown quesitons
      • War veterans in post-war situations
        • Refusal to reintegrate?
          • Similarities to societal groups like Turkey’s war vets?
      • External communities
        • How do the communities reintegrating the militia members feel?
        • What about disapora?
      • Generational questions
        • “Reintegration” implies that there is a life to go back to. Are militia members who spent their lives in conflict have this open as an opportunity?

Similar/Previous Work

Peacebuilding and islam in iraq

peacebuilding with hashd al-shaabi and infrastructure?

  • how are they building infrastructure
    • weapons depots, telecommunications, etc
    • osint on their locations, monitor communications
  • the build up of telecommunication infrastructure and how they deliver money? how are payments delivered into communities?

important part of writing a thesis

  • don’t get caught up in the sequences
  • do things you thnink you’re not ready to do
  • how to identify one thing

FINAL Religious rituals, authority, and identity in modern Iraq

  • Modern Iraq is fractured blah blah blah
  • Many modes of belonging
  • How do the rituals reflect that? Do religious rituals in the shrine cities demarkate anything useful? Recongition of multiple poles of power as not independent, but mixed together
  • Islamic law angle?
  • Qi card angle?
  • Shia kurds -> fayli kurds? How do they travel? Do they buy into a shia identity?
  • As the iraqi state becomes more and more shia-centric, does buying into shia identity mean buying into iraqi identity?
  • Ali al wardi stuff
  • To the people who attend these rituals, how do they feel about it?
  • Rituals as a language, and language as a tool of citizenship and identity formation, how language itself is key to identity formationg

Links to this note