Till Mostowlansky
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Managing Karbala
Genealogies of Shiʿa humanitarianism in Pakistan, England, and Iraq
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Based on ethnographic fieldwork among charitable trusts in Pakistan and England, this chapter explores the complex genealogies of contemporary Twelver Shia humanitarianism. Moving away from the notion of linear genealogical connections between specific theologies and contemporary humanitarian practices, this chapter argues that the political theology underlying contemporary Shia humanitarianism is informed by the entanglement of diverse genealogical strands. These include reformulations of the ‘Muslim liberal’, the concept of ‘meritocracy’ deriving from managerial discourse, and memorialisations of the seventh-century Battle of Karbala as an inherently political-theological event. In sum, this chapter purports that – to do justice to the complexity of Shia humanitarianism – it is useful to move away from the notion that an a priori theological foundation underlies contemporary humanitarian work, and instead to think through multipolar and multidirectional interactions.

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