Exhibition held from the 11th October to the 14th December 2013 at the Brunei Gallery - London

The Brunei Gallery

LOOKING BACK: THE FORMATION OF ZOROASTRIAN IDENTITY THROUGH REDISCOVERY OF THE PAST.

11th and 12th October 2013 - Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre
Organised by the Centre for Iranian Studies, LMEI, SOAS.

Throughout their long history Zoroastrians have referred to and relied upon notions of what is traditional and authoritative in order to conserve their identity. This has been a process of reconnecting in every generation to what is received and recovered from the past - whether it be religious texts teachings and practices, or stories of past events both historical and mythical. However, tradition is not a simple or static phenomenon; it is ongoing, accumulative and responsive to the need for change in social and cultural contexts.

Though now it is one of the smallest religious faiths in the world, Zoroastrianism is a microcosm of a great range of religious history, as it spans three millennia of changing conditions. For several centuries it enjoyed imperial patronage, and then for much of its history since the Islamic conquest, it was subordinated to the status of a minority religion in Iran, and was at times variously suppressed and tolerated, as it did not formally meet the requirements to qualify for the status of ahl-e ketāb. In India, since the early 9th century, the émigré community of Parsis enjoyed religious freedom, and in the modern period has achieved great economic success. Like many religious communities Iranian and Parsi Zoroastrians now form diasporic communities all around the globe.

In this two day conference we examine patterns of identity formation in ancient, medieval and more recent periods, looking at how texts, traditions, icons, rituals, stories and symbols have been used to form Zoroastrian identities. Participants in the conference are invited to consider the general theme with regard to one or more of the key topics listed below in their field of study, better to understand the processes of religious and cultural identity formation, continuity and development:

1. RETURN
The notion of ‘return’ to the past (Persian bāstāngarā’ī, i.e. the phenomenon in modern Iranian history of return to ancient traditions) and its consequences for Zoroastrians and their cultures.

2. TRADITION
Concepts of tradition, authority, orthodoxy, continuity, change, origins, conservatism and innovation in Zoroastrian (Iranian and Parsi) religion and culture.

3. SCRIPTURE
The Avesta and Zand and their significance for the tradition.

4. SYMBOLS AND ICONS
Enduring Zoroastrian symbols and iconic forms in art and architecture.

5. ZOROASTRIANISM AND IRAN
The Zoroastrian relationship with ‘Iran’ and its ethnic and imperial past.

6. MINORITY
Minority status: preserving cultural and religious identity balanced with maintaining good relations with the majority religion.

7. MODERNITY
The role of the past in the contemporary problem of balancing traditional elements of Zoroastrian culture with the processes of secularisation and modernisation in a global context.

8. CONTEMPORARY
Contemporary Iranian Muslim and secular artistic rediscovery of the pre-Islamic heritage.

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Monday 14 October 2013, 11.30am-12.30pm

Zoroastrian Textiles in the V&A Collections

Viewing session, with Rosemary Crill, Senior Curator for South and Southeast Asia, and Moya Carey, IHF Curator for the Iranian Collections, V&A. Organised by the Asia Department of the V&A, and the Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS.

This guided session is designed to complement the Everlasting Flame exhibition and SOAS conference on Zoroastrianism. Two curators from the Museum's Asia Department will discuss a selection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Zoroastrian textiles and costumes from Iran and India.

The Clothworkers' Centre for Textiles and Fashion Study and Conservation, Blythe Road, Kensington Olympia. Admission is free, but only 18 places are available. Bookings for this event open on the 1st July:

Contact: Louise Hosking - lh2@soas.ac.uk