Re: South Persian Art

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Posted by Stephen Louw on November 17, 1998 at 03:42:27:

In Reply to: South Persian Art posted by Marvin on November 16, 1998 at 19:05:48:

Marvin's question about Muslim weavers, and attitudes to (empty) space on rugs is a good one. I suspect he is right to contrast Turkoman and S. Persian weavers here. This points to the danger -- usually ignored in the rug literature -- of many of the religious and ethnographic terms commonly employed. The fact that both S. Persian and Turkoman weavers were Muslim tells us something important, but this is only a small part of the story. The Islamic faith, especially in the rural areas, was always (and is still) infused with other pre-Islamic faiths -- often in an extraordinarily conflictual and complex manner. Ernest Gellner calls this Low Islam, which he contrasts with the High Islam of the city mosques. (The terms are used in a relative, not judgemental sense). Opie captures this well with his discussion of early Luri religious symbols and current (although not necesarily Muslim) religious symbols. To get back to the point, much fieldwork needs to be done to trace the link here between cultural identity and attitudes to (empty) space in rugs -- the S. Persian rug here being a good starting point. Secondly, a related but more general point. We need to begin by rejecting entirely the notions of "tribe" (although this has some descriptive value) and "subtribe". The latter is meaningless, and counterproductive. Like "tribe", it implies an homogeneity of interest that does not necessarily exist. The idea of a sub-unit of this basic unit compounds this error, and presuposses the identity that needs to be explained. Volkunde ethnography is widely rejected in the anthropological literature, and should equally be rejected here. A good example of the merits of a non-"tribal" approach is Tom Coles recent classification of Baluch weaving styles. (Although he uses the term, tribe, this appears to be adopted out of convenience, it is not given any analytic status).
Stephen Louw

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