"It is a long way from Kerbela to Calvary"

When and Where

Tuesday, February 13, 2024 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
MN 4207
University of Toronto Mississauga


Babak Rahimi (University of California San Diego)


"It is a long way from Kerbela to Calvary”: Matthew Arnold's Medievalist ta'ziyeh


Speaker's Abstract

This talk critically examines the Victorian poet and cultural critique of Matthew Arnold’s 1865 lecture on the comparison between Shiʿi mourning performances of taʿziyeh and the popular Oberammergau Passion Play. By contrast with the writings of other nineteenth-century European authors on taʿziyeh, Arnold, I argue, offers a distinct racial conception of the Shiʿi performances by which the “Persian” cultural expression, masked as Islam, affirms an Aryan affinity with European Christian identity, ideally expressed in the form of “self-renouncement” of medievalism. The presentation also looks at the Arnoldian views on taʿziyeh as the basis of a discursive regime of knowledge on devotional Shiʿism which deemphasizes the sensorial practices of the lived traditions in favor of theology, myth, and racial identity. 

About the Speaker

Babak Rahimi is an associate professor of Culture, Communication, and Religion, and the Director of the Middle East Studies Program at UC San Diego. His forthcoming monograph, Senses of Mourning: Muharram Performances in Shi’i Iran, 1868-2020, examines the history of Shi’i devotional practices of Muharram in modern Iranian history through a sensory history.


Muslim Materialities Lecture Series, Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga


University of Toronto Mississauga