Shi'ism in transition
Fischer, Michael M. J.
Doctor of Philosophy
The importance of Islam as a religious, cultural, and political force has been too evident in the last decades of the twentieth century to need any emphasis. To reach an understanding of the position and influence of Islam in the world today, it is necessary not only to understand "classical" Islam, but to recognize that Islam is a transforming force. It is more than an old religion, it is a modern day ideology for "changing". At the same time it is, itself, a "changing" ideology. As it attempts to transform its own abode (as well as the entire world), it becomes transformed by the delimiting forces which surround it. Currently Shi'ite Islam deserves particular attention. It is no longer a traditional/traditionalist force vis-a-vis secularist "social reform" confined in its abode (mainly Iran), but an expanding "revolutionary" force. It is revolutionary in its call to all Muslims of the world to "return": to "original Islam", to "self" (from cultural disalienation, dis-assimilation), and to the world which the "eroding acid of modernism/modernization" has severely damaged but not totally destroyed. This study draws attention, through a variety of interpretive techniques, to this complex change and transformation. Part 1 explores individual growth and education in Iran through a series of autobiographical sondages set in the postmodern world. Part 2 features the life and works of an important Shi'ite ideologue who reinterpreted his old faith into a practical ideology in light of modern thought. Part 3 interprets ethnographic observations among Muslim immigrants (and converts) in Houston, Texas. The study concludes by addressing the issue of minority adjustment in exile.
Religious history; Cultural anthropology