Tears and blood of love : gender and lament in South Asian Shii Muharram rituals
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This essay is a reflection on the obviously physical manifestations of lament in South Asian Shii Muharram rituals: weeping and matam, or self-mortification of the flesh. I examine weeping mainly as it is simultaneously actualized and depicted in poetry recited in the majlis (“mourning gathering”) setting and consider matam in the context of majlises, as well as Muharram processions. While there are varying degrees and styles of matam, I concentrate on the public forms intended to draw blood, which are practiced solely by Shii men and boys. These practices constitute a gendered ritual “performance,” often enacted in front of an audience of both men and women—but one that can only be fully understood when viewed in relation to the act of ritual weeping, in which gender is not primary.