Touching Image of History: Cham Practices of Looking Across Cambodia and Iran

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Situated at the intersection of visual anthropology and historical anthropology, Touching Image of History brings experimental ethnographic writing together with the production and theorization of still and moving images. It asks: What does history feel like when it does not archive facts? It offers to rethink history, not as the extraction of facts, and anthropology not as the accumulation of observations, but rather as opportunities to generate wonder. It is with Chams—Muslims in predominantly Buddhist Cambodia—and among them particularly Saeths—(Sayyids) descendants of the Prophet's family—that this research takes inspiration. It investigates "practices of looking" refracted by the passage of a few into Iranian Islamic seminaries, and of others in a moment of pending between Sunnism and Shi'ism. A study with images that only appear through concealment, this dissertation gathers unreadable manuscripts, invisible history objects, and old family photo albums to picture a history that "cannot be told, cannot be written and cannot be seen." This Cham and Saeth commitment to an image of history suggests a "resonance" brought to the writing of alternative anthropologies and histories to further a rapprochement of disciplines with humans, rather than a documenting of times and spaces.

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History; Chams; Historical Anthropology; Iran; Sayyids; Visual Anthropology; Southeast Asian studies; Islamic studies; Cambodia


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Ramberg, Lucinda E.G.

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Tagliacozzo, Eric
Formichi, Chiara
Fuhrmann, Arnika I.
Boyarin, Jonathan Aaron

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Ph.D., Anthropology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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