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Circling around the really Real in Iran

Ethnography of Muharram laments among Shi'i volunteer militants in the Middle East

Younes Saramifar

Abstract

Iranian Shi'i believers claim that capturing sorrow and lamentation in their fullest sense falls beyond language and reason. They constantly refer to their inability to articulate in order to explain martyrdom and highlight a form of unsaid that explains all that appears impalpable for them. I undertake a journey among Iranian Shi'i youth to trace the unarticulated and the sense of wonder generated via religious experiences. By way of an ethnography of Muharram lamentation ceremonies, this article highlights how the unarticulated and the unsaid are socially and politically used in service of Shi'i militancy. I explore those uncharted terrains in the darkness of the Lacanian Real and in terms of how the Real is authenticated in order to address how realities are crafted and religious subjectivities are enacted in the realm of militancy.

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The South Side of Heaven

A Journey along the Iranian Collective Memory in Iran-Iraq War Memorial Sites

Younes Saramifar

I portray mnemonic practices of Iranians who engaged with the past and keep the memories of martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) alive within frames and words. Through pictures taken during the annual commemoration of martyrs in southern Iran, I show how religiosity, politics and generational guilt are entangled in post-war Iran. I move against the grains of memory studies and visual anthropology by maintaining the silences and what is left unsaid instead of rendering war memories, acts of remembering and ways of seeing epistemologically coherent. I argue remembering is a practice locally shaped according to the politics of everyday life and not by imagined presupposition of memory scholars. Therefore, I draw an ontological approach towards memories in Iran by ways of seeing and religious worldview of those implicated in the Iranian memory machine.

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Matthew Carey, Ida Nielsen Sølvhøj, Eve Monique Zucker, Younes Saramifar, and Louis Frankenthaler