Burlesquing Muḥarram Processions into Carnivalesque Boria1

Jan van der Putten

in Shi'ism In South East Asia

Published in print December 2015 | ISBN: 9780190264017
Published online September 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190618537 | DOI:
Burlesquing Muḥarram Processions into Carnivalesque Boria1

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While symbolic re-enactments of the suffering of the martyrs during the first ten days of Muharram are commemorated through various manifestations of ‘Alid piety, in some communities these commemorations have evolved into public spectacles where carnivalesque elements seem to dominate. In the Malay world the theatrical form boria developed out of an amalgam of rituals and practices introduced by South Asian convicts, traders and indentured labourers in the first half of the nineteenth century. In this chapter I examine how boria as cultural form in an inter-Indian Ocean performance tradition evolved in a context characterized by a loss of social networks in a process Joseph Roach has called 'surrogation’. How were loss of memory and intentional forgetting compensated for in the ongoing renewal of performance traditions, and how did communities perform their pasts in the presence of others? Around the turn of the twentieth century, boria was stripped of its religious meaning and gradually took on a more commercial (popular) culture garb, and later still the form was taken up by the Malaysian government after independence in 1957 to serve as the local representative enriching the national culture.

Keywords: Islam; History; Literature; Religion; Ritual; Malay; Malaysia

Chapter.  8126 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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