Hosay Trinidad

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Hosay Trinidad, Muharram Performances in an Indo-Caribbean Diaspora
Hosay Trinidad.jpg
AuthorFrank J. Korom
GenreHistorian of religion
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

The book Hosay Trinidad, Muharram Performances in an Indo-Caribbean Diaspora, is highly recommended for Asianists, Caribbeanists, Islamologists, and historians of religion or art. It is clearly the most outstanding single piece of scholarship on Trinidadian Hosay to date and will be an essential resource for many years to come.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Frank J. Korom, is a professor of Religion and Anthropology at Boston University. He received degrees in Religious Studies and Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1984, before pursuing studies in India and Pakistan, where he earned certificates of recognition in a number of modern South Asian languages. He did his graduate work in folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, and was awarded the Ph.D. in 1992 for a dissertation on Dharmaraj, a local village deity worshipped in West Bengal from medieval times to the present. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, a Ford Foundation cultural consultant in India and Bangladesh, and curator of Asian and Middle Eastern collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe prior to his arrival at Boston University in the summer of 1998.

Among his research awards have been grants from the Institute of International Education. He is the author and editor of eight books, the most recent one being South Asian Folklore: A Handbook (2006) and A Village of Painters (2006). He also served as Editor of Religious Studies Review from 2001-2003. In 2004-2005, he was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in India. In 2006 he was a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to support the completion of a new book tentatively titled Singing Modernity. Currently, he is researching transnational Sufism, with a focus on Sri Lanka as a point of origin.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in University of Pennsylvania Press; Illustrated edition (October 31, 2002), has 320 pages and best sellers rank of 2,488,023 in Books and won the prestigious Premio Pitre international book award in 2002.

Hosay Trinidad is the first detailed historical and ethnographic study of Islamic Muharram rituals performed on the island of Trinidad. It is recommended for anyone with an interest in contemporary interreligious issues, the possibilities within local Islamic cultures, and questions of identity formation in a multicultural and multireligious society. The author makes very clear references of the origins and meanings of this ceremony. The reader can get a vivid picture of how and where this ceremony is conducted and the various ways the practice has morphed according to the climate in which it is celebrated.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 1, Orientations and Overview

In this chapter the author shows the historical background of the rite's origins and observance in Iran and Iraq and tries to recount the early development of Iranian mourning traditions.

  • Chapter 2, Muharram Rituals in Iran: Past and Present

Korom believes that the practices associated with Hussain's passion may have originated in Iran and Iraq as a result of grafting earlier pre-Islamic beliefs and practices onto the Shi'i master narrative. It has been seen that the material and visual dimensions of the public rituals combine with their verbal and dramatic dimensions to create a distinct ritualistic complex. Taken together, these multisensory events-stationary and processional, private and public, sacred and secular-comprise the observances for Hussain in Iran, telling a story that is relived each year by the faithful. He ended this chapter by suggesting that even in Iran a festive mood provides a backdrop to the mournful posture of the religious community participating in Muharram-related activities. The Iranian atmosphere in no way, however, resembles the carnivalesque dimension we encounter in India.

  • Chapter 3, The Passage of Rites to South Asia

Korom indicates that although one can speak of multiple sectarian Muharrams existing simultaneously at different points in time, there is also abundant evidence to suggest mixed regional forms practiced in India today that cohere around a Shi'i/Sunni/Hindu creolized form and development of both private Shi'i practices and public Sunni ones being performed separately is obvious. He also mentions that the rituals continued to grow and change as a result of cultural encounters between religious and ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent. At the end of this part, he has alluded to the numerous ways in which the month of Muharram has afforded the Shi'ah a symbolic and theological means to protest and rebel against oppression and tyranny. He believes that resistance to ruling forces is a major Muharram theme around the world, and more political examples are observed in the Caribbean.

  • Chapter 4, Onward to the Caribbean

In this chapter, the author provides a brief overview of the Hosay tradition as it is practiced today in order to provide the reader with a fitting context for the extended ethnographic and theoretical discussions. He wishes to argue that the necessary process of a minority religious community adopting local customs has allowed the rituals to thrive creatively in each of the environments discussed. He refers to this process as "cultural creolization," an appropriate alternative to the outdated and problematic concept of syncretism.

  • Chapter 5, Building the Tadjah, Constructing Community

In this chapter, the author wishes to illustrate the mismatch between interpretations and understandings with a prototypical set of historically derived assumptions about the phenomenon performed by describing explicitly different sets of interpretations pertaining to Hosay. So, he provides a fairly extensive description of the processes, both symbolic and actual, leading up to the great processions that are the center of the annual event in Trinidad. In this way he tries to provide the reader with the appropriate contextual backdrop for his subsequent theoretical discussions of negotiating and debating creolization, identity, tradition, and the pros and cons of transnationalism.

  • Chapter 6, Conclusion: Maintenance and Transformation via Cultural Creolization

The theme of identity politics is addressed most forcefully in this chapter where the author argues that the Rosay phenomenon manifests multiple discourses about national culture, race, and ethnic identity on the island. The domains of these discourses can best be visualized as a series of concentric circles starting from the center and radiating outward like the proverbial ripples on a pond. He explores some key issues for understanding the dynamics of what he has been referring to as cultural creolization. During this journey it is seen that Trinidadian practitioners had to adapt the rituals to local circumstances to secure their survival and allow them to flourish.

Source[edit | edit source]