The author is Hamid Dabashi and the subtitle is A Religion of Protest.  This book is excellent in every chapter and on virtually on every page, including in its discussion of cinema and aesthetics.  Excerpt:

[In Shi’ism] what we see is the exact opposite of deferred obedience.  Instead we witness a permanent state of deferred defiance — a defiance in the making, a defiance to come.  What the Shi’is have deferred in the aftermath of the murder of their primordial son is not obedience — it is defiance.  Because the central trauma of Shi’ism is the killing of a primordial son and not a primordial father, Shi’ism has remained a quintessentially youthful religion, the religion the young revolutionaries defying the patriarchal order of things.


Sounds like hogwash. Also, Cowen is the worst book reviewer ever.

You're garbage. And your mother was great last night.

If you want to learn more about about Hamid Dabashi, you should look at this Wikipedia page:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamid_Dabashihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamid_Dabashi.

A note at the top of the pages says that the materials may not be "balanced." But pretty interesting stuff.

The theory about "killing of a primordial son" sounds far-fetched. Does someone believe that the actions of the Shia on the street are actually influenced by these old mythological stories? A phrase like "deferred defiance" sets off my BS-detectors.

Rahul, if you don't believe it, watch footage of Ashura celebrations in big Shia cities or at shrines. Those stories are very much present in Shia consciousness.

The faction is founded on the idea of being illegitimately disenfranchised and the holy sites of the religion stress this fact. If you look at Shia Iran you can see it in the viewpoint of all the political parties. The ruling elites focus on the US and the UK as oppressing them and preventing a legitimate expression of their wills. The opposition groups have this exact feeling towards the clerics and government. I think there may be a lack of understanding in the West of how this cultural viewpoint drives their policy.

The Irony to me is that it is very similar to the Zionist movements view of the world that is full of anti-semites who always are trying to undermine the fragile Jewish people.

I can't imagine that these kinds of differences have more than small, residual effects. Really, the last few decades of international and domestic economic and political conditions weigh far more heavily on the social consciousness of Shia Muslims than the specific mythology in their holy texts - as we can see, the latter are consistently manipulated to serve the interests of the former in all religious tendencies.

Before the 1979 Irani Revolution, "experts" often used to opine that Shi'ism was prone to political withdrawal given the political-engagement-related-trauma that resulted from Imam Husain's "martyrdom" at the hands of the Caliph's army in 680 AD. The limited political engagement of Lebanese Shia prior to the 1970s was seen as further validation. After 1979 Iran, experts began proclaiming that the Shia were inherently revolutionary. Lebanon again became validation thanks to Hizbollah. I cant believe this kind of lazy, ethnicity-based analysis still survives. It's Krugman's "zombie ideas" concept applied to the rest of social science. What's great about the recent Egyptian uprising is that it has up-ended all "experts" - no one saw it coming. Egyptians were supposed to be docile. Its fun to watch the same "experts" now scrambling to explain Egypt based on whatever "area of expertise" they can plausibly lay claim to. This would all be funny if we didn't rely on the same "experts" for policy.

"After the Prophet", a 2009 book by Lesley Hazelton, is a readable book on the Sunni -Shia split. It is somewhat more sympathetic to Shiism, but drawn mainly from an early book by a Sunni historian.

I agree that this is overused in lazy analysis of the Middle East. There are lots of both types of Muslims, and there have been lots of permutations of Shiism over the centuries. There was something of a counterpart in using the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism to explain all sorts of historical events, in ways that turned out not to hold water.

I think Dabashi is over selling the argument. But he is not wrong. Maybe it would have been better to say that the “deferred defiance” colors/decorates/haunts the issues of justice within Shia society. It doesn’t cause those arguments, but it “shapes” them, or provides symbolic weight. Much like themes of resurrection and/or forgiveness and/or universal rights/love color Western Narratives, because of Western Christianity.

Maybe he should be using “use” with “cause”?

Have you ever read "The Shia Revival" or "Imam Musa al-Sadr and the Professor Cowen?


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