Lady Lumley’s Iphigenia, a dramatization of sacrifice for a political cause, echoes the Lumley family’s participation in the politics of the 1550s. The role of Lady Lumley’s father in the events surrounding Lady Jane Grey’s death illuminates his daughter’s translation of Euripides, revealing affinities with Palestinian constructions of gender and female ‘martyrdom’ whereby women transcend convention while self-silencing their voices of protest. In both the fictional world of Lumley’s Iphigenia and contemporary Palestine, marriage and sacrifice are metaphorically associated. Clytemnestra’s opposition to Agamemnon’s plan to sacrifice Iphigenia and the Chorus’s complicity with the former enacts a presentist dialogue with contemporary Palestinian mothers divided in their support of or opposition to their daughters’ participation in armed resistance. Controversially, in common Palestinian parlance those dying defending the Palestinian cause (including, even more controversially, suicide bombers) are termed ‘martyrs’ for a just cause. Iphigenia’s heroism and Agamemnon’s indecisions therefore bear contemporary resonances.
Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra
Ethnography of Muharram laments among Shi’i volunteer militants in the Middle East
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 un said 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 craft ed and religious subjectivities are enacted in the realm of militancy.
Martyrdom and Memorials in Post-Civil War Lebanon
Are John Knudsen
This article furthers the study of post–civil war memorialisation in Lebanon by analysing the trajectory of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from statesman to martyr. This transformative process offers a window into the symbolism of Lebanese statehood, and demonstrates how the politicisation of confessional martyrs is used to decry injustice and stake out claims to the state. There is no tradition for prosecuting and punishing political murders in Lebanon, causing victims to be pronounced martyrs. Impunity is therefore the major reason why martyrs and memorialising are so widespread. To this end, the article offers a semiotic reading of Hariri’s posthumous transformation from political patron to patron saint, and is a contribution towards the importance of martyr symbolism for understanding the purported weakness of Lebanese statehood.
The Artistic and Diasporic Afterlife of the Iran-Iraq War
How do the cultural and emotional after-effects of the Iran-Iraq War influence artistic production among Iranian artists living outside of Iran? How do Iranian diaspora self-portraits act as socio-political memoirs? This article addresses these questions by looking at some examples of diaspora artists who through their art somehow remain political 'subjects' of contemporary Iran, even as they grapple with the complexities of 'being away' - if that is ever really possible.
The Art of the Political Relationship in Lebanon
This article aims to analyse the patron–client relationship through a detailed ethnography of the everyday life of Walid Junblat's followers in Lebanon. It reveals how intimate people are with political figures, talking to them (in the form of their pictures), talking about them, thinking through them, playing off this intimacy to enter the political competition. Patrons also play their part in this relationship. The weekly political gatherings held at Junblat's Palace are the apex of this aesthetic of power. Detailed observations indicate how the lord orchestrates and varies the tempo of his interactions with the ritual audience, adding complexity and fluidity to the relation.
Martyrdom as Generative Sacrifice in the Nepal People's War
In Nepal, war is a sacrifice. The warrior maintains a direct and unique relationship with the divine, since in warfare he makes a sacrificial gift of his own person, the bali dân—a gift that results in a 'noble death'. The warrior can offer the sacrifice or be offered in sacrifice. In Maoist ideology, death loses its character of reciprocity since the inter-changeability of victims who die honorably on either side of the battle has been eliminated. The asymmetry of death, the one-sided sacrificial nature of the war, is one of the features that distinguishes the People's War from those that preceded it. Through Maoist poetry and Maoist warriors' diaries, this article explores the shift introduced by the People's War from the figure of the 'hero', traditionally attached to the warlike realm, to the new figure of the 'martyr', and shows the apocalyptic nature of the Maoist cultural production.
A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration
Since Weber's time, it has been believed that 'enchantment' progressively gave way to secular rationalism and its disenchanted ways. This essay breaks the twinning of enchantment with 'irrationality' in developing the argument that enchanted practices and pragmatic methods co-exist fruitfully in the activities of the LTTE. Circumstantial evidence, arising from pictures and descriptions of hero rituals sponsored by the LTTE, provides the foundation for this argument. It is suggested that the Saivite universe of being has nourished these symbolic compositions. A photograph of Black Tigers paying homage to their dead with guns in the left hand and flowers in the right provides a condensed demonstration as well as a point of departure for this suggestion. It is a moment of conjunctiveness that has the potential to fuse past, present, and future, thus achieving 'fusion force'.
The Heroic Tale of “Taiyuan's Five Hundred Martyrs” in the Chinese Civil War
Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang
On 19 February 1951, a state-sponsored funeral took place in north Taipei in which a splendid cenotaph to commemorate the “five hundred martyrs of Taiyuan”— heroic individuals who died defending a distant city in northern China against the Chinese Communist encirclement—was revealed. In the four decades that followed, the Nationalist government on Taiwan built a commemorative cult and a pedagogic enterprise centering on these figures. Yet, the martyrs' epic was a complete fiction, one used by Chiang Kai-shek's regime to erase the history of atrocities and mass displacement in the Chinese civil war. Following Taiwan's democratization in the 1990s, the repressed traumas returned in popular narratives; this recovery tore the hidden wounds wide open. By examining the tale of the five hundred martyrs as both history and metaphor, this article illustrates the importance of political forces in both suppressing and shaping traumatic memories in Taiwan.
A Journey along the Iranian Collective Memory in Iran-Iraq War Memorial Sites
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.
Of Witnesses, Martyrs, and Plural Pasts in Post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina
This article explores how Muslims in Central Bosnia engage with the violent past through acts of prayer to make history. It traces two idioms expressed in prayers whereby Bosnian Muslims affectively apprehend, remember, and temporalize the past: witness (šahit) and martyr (šehit). These two idioms, I argue, allow Muslims to reanimate recent critical events as the realms of personal moral-cum-temporal orientations rather than unreflectively participating in an ongoing nationalization of the past in the public discourses. This article thus suggests to take seriously an act of prayer as a mode of historical consciousness— an assemblage of divergent sensibilities, materialities, practices, and ethical conduct—in order to develop a more nuanced perspective on the past as actively and ethically in-the-making in the present.