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Accepted Paper:

Ambiguous by attitude, contradictory by choice: Sufi healing in rural Kashmir  
Uzair Mir (The University of Texas at Austin)

Paper Short Abstract:

Aporia is natural to the human condition but does more than just evoke anxiety. The paper underlines the productivity of aporia as it occurs in Sufi therapeutics in rural Kashmir. Rather than disrupt the ritual, aporia allows for a more pliant Muslimness of participants, making the ritual possible.

Paper Abstract:

Ritual, as a densely signified social action, starkly manifests the aporias of belief and action in people’s social life. Although their ubiquity and indelibility should point to their utility, the tendency of anthropological theory has been to find a way to resolve such aporias, either by invoking the social structure they symbolize, the social function they serve, or their special role in social poiesis. When some studies do acknowledge the unresolved persistence of contradiction and ambiguity such aporias raise, they stop at admitting to their expected conflictual presence. In this paper, I explore the productive potential of aporia, as it materializes in the ritual event. I analyze Sufi healing in rural Kashmir, a borderland between India and Pakistan, and show two significant cases of aporia. One relates to the self-irony of the Sufi therapist (pir) regarding his spiritual competence and the other to an attending client’s disbelief regarding the ritual. Rather than disrupting the ritual, as the authority of the healer and the client’s faith are central to the ritual, I argue that these aporias foster participation in the ritual, making it possible at all. I show that these aporias inhere in how these individuals construct and construe their Muslim selves. As these selves are social and pliant, they engender aporia—in all its potentiality. To this end, the paper posits that ritual be analyzed as totally continuous with the social whole, distinct but not discrete.

Panel OP309
Healthcare actors and their doings
  Session 2