The Rite of Urban Passage: The Spatial Ritualization of Iranian Urban Transformation | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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The Rite of Urban Passage: The Spatial Ritualization of Iranian Urban Transformation

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The Rite of Urban Passage

The Spatial Ritualization of Iranian Urban Transformation

Reza Masoudi

198 pages, 35 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-976-9 $120.00/£89.00 / Hb / Published (August 2018)

ISBN  978-1-80073-649-8 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (October 2022)

eISBN 978-1-78533-977-6 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


The Rite of Urban Passage is an insightful reflection on Muharram rituals as part of an urban process in the changing historical context of Iranian society. Impeccably researched and illuminating, Reza Masoudi has produced one of the best scholarly works on the relationship between ritual, space and cities.” • Babak Rahimi, Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Religious Studies, UC San Diego

“In this impressive and thought-provoking study, Masoudi not only provides a detailed account of Muharram processions, but redefines rituals from places and actions to spatiality, manifestations and dynamics, and as an integral part of urban transformations. Highly recommended both to scholars of Iranian culture and those interested in wider conceptions of space and society.” • Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

The Rite of Urban Passage introduces the reader to Muharram ritual in Dezful, a small city located in Iran’s southwest and outside of its major urban centers. In this groundbreaking study, Reza Masoudi Nejad recontextualizes the theoretical insights of Lévi-Strauss, Turner, van Gennep, and Gluckman to shift focus from the place of ritual to ritual’s spatial aspects to create what he calls “ritual space.” Combining ritual and spatial theory, this work reveals the complex role Muharram rituals have had in shaping modern urban spaces in Iran. This book is essential reading for scholars interested in the spatial dynamics of Muharram ritual.” • Karen G. Ruffle, University of Toronto


The Iranian city experienced a major transformation when the Pahlavi Dynasty initiated a project of modernization in the 1920s. The Rite of Urban Passage investigates this process by focusing on the spatial dynamics of Muharram processions, a ritual that commemorates the tragic massacre of Hussein and his companions in 680 CE. In doing so, this volume offers not only an alternative approach to understanding the process of urban transformation, but also a spatial genealogy of Muharram rituals that provides a platform for developing a fresh spatial approach to ritual studies.

Reza Masoudi is a native southwestern Iranian who lives in London, where he is currently a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London. He has been a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany, and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO), Berlin. He is an urbanist whose work focuses on the geography of crowds and protests, urban violence, and studies of religious rituals in public spaces in Iran and India.

Subject: Anthropology (General)Urban StudiesAnthropology of Religion
Area: Middle East & Israel


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