Shia marriage practices: Karbala as lieux de mémoire in London

Yafa Shanneik

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Muslim marriages have gained much attention in public debates and academic research. This article examines marriage practices among displaced Iraqi Shia migrants in the UK. Only a few studies have examined this group and fewer by investigating their marriage practices as a way to preserve their religious and cultural memory (Halbwachs 1992). The article is based on Pierre Nora’s concept of lieux de mémoire, which refers to spaces, objects or events that have a significant meaning to a particular groups’ collective memory (Nora 1989, 1996). I argue in this paper that the transnational aspects of cultural memory expressed in Shia marriage practices such as rituals, images, and objects among the Iraqi Twelver Shia women in the UK can be regarded as examples of transnational Shia lieux de mémoire. These marriage practices, although appropriated for various personal, social, and religious memories outside of any national framework, are still highly politicized. The article focuses on the practice of sofrat al-‘aqd (for short sofra) that provides women with the ability to articulate their religious and social identity through material objects placed on the sofra that act as women’s transnational Shia lieux de mémoire.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Muslim marriages
  • Shia Islam
  • sofra
  • lieux de mémoire
  • collective memory


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