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James Schubel

In “Karbala as Sacred Space among North American Shi’a”, James Schubel describes how migrants from East Africa rely on traditional practices to preserve their cultural identities. Through establishing a “sacred center” to reenact rituals such as the battle of Karbala, Shi’a Muslims are able to claim a space that is simultaneously American and Islamic. This allows the community to remain in touch with their cultural identity as well as educate the youth about the significance of historical events such as the battle of Karbala.

I think it’s crucial for marginal communities to preserve culture in the diaspora. But I question if certain traditions such as the reenactment of rituals, become “lost in translation” in the diaspora. For example, Schubel underscores how the use of English has stirred controversy in the center. This is supposed to benefit the youth whose native language is English; however, many argue the ceremony should be presented in Urdu because it captures the emotional timbre.

I could see why this could be a concern after we watched the different portrayals of Karbala in the Middle East and in the diaspora. The performance of Karbala in the diaspora seemed to be a watered down version compared to the plays we saw in the Middle East.

I question whether there is a way to retain traditional practices in the diaspora without losing so much of its authenticity.

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