Ritual devotion among Shi'i in Bahrain.
The thesis investigates Shi'ite ritual in Bahrain with
particular attention to women's involvement. The analysis
relies heavily on the interpretation of the symbolic
structure of these rituals and the roles and meanings that
are attached to similar or identical symbols in non-ritual
contexts. It is this comparison, combined with an emphasis
on indigenous points of view, which forms the basis of the
thesis' argument, and the interpretations found therein.
The thesis suggests that ritual is central to the lives
of Bahraini Shi'i: it organizes particular social networks,
contributes to local definitions of gender and age
distinctions and continually presents a model which accounts
for the origins of the Shi'ite universe. Each of these
points is examined in detail. With respect to social
reactions the thesis demonstrates the close interdependence
between women's positions within the neighbourhood and their
simultaneous involvement in demanding ritual
responsibilities. It is the close association found between
physical and spiritual maturity which makes the factors of
gender and age critical to defining ritual involvement.
Finally the idea that Shi'ite ritual contains a model of
their origins leads to a discussion of the Imam Husain, the
Prophet Mohammed's grandson, and his martyrdom. This
discussion provides the basis for suggesting that the key to
Shi'ite life and regeneration rests on the concepts of
atonement and sacrifice.
The thesis concludes by reemphasizing the value of
description in anthroplogy, the use of indigenous models as a
starting •point in analysis and the mixed advantages of
symbolic interpretation. The concluding discussion also
outlines a case for looking at the emotional character of
ritual in a more direct and systematic fashion than that
previously found in anthropological analysis.