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SEAP Gatty Lecture Series

Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 12:00pm to 1:15pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

"Iran, this Image of History (Among Some Cambodian Muslim Cham Sayyids)"

Emiko Stock, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

The video is played over and over on smartphones' facebooks. Viewer-bys round up in comments: "Must be truly ancient", "So beautiful and strange", "Pure shi'a stuff", “So like us but more", "Iran... They do it all totally modern... like a performance / art". It's a prayer putting the final touch to a wedding, in the comfort of a bride's house, in the familiarity of friends' walls. It is a moment somewhere in Cambodia, in a village of Chams, the Muslim minority. It is a place sometime among Sayyids—descendants of the Prophet and his family. This presentation looks at the image of the polyphonic supplication, in a composition sounding Arabic, Farsi and Cham, as a chronotope of Iran, bringing time and space to a close. Rather than pinning down the emergence of Iran and Shi'ism, among Chams, at the tip of the compass of the contemporary, I take this image to be history itself, as it contains both past (the longing for Sayyid lineages to be furthered), and future ((Islamic) studies through an Iran+ opening). In discussion with Strathern 2013 and Boyarin 1994, this presentation locates Iran as an instant collapsing both time and space together. As Iran comes into view through the sound chorus of young male alumns of Qom seminaries, the chronotope comes forth as a "method of hope" (Miyazaki 2006), one of keeping images of history open. In the end, the video and its nearby related objects of history may throw questions to religious and area studies: by getting cozy and comfy in togetherness, aren’t Cambodia and Iran talking back to the divides inherent to Islamic studies and to Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian studies?

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program

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