• Palliative Prophecy: Yezidi Perspectives on Their Suffering under Islamic State and on Their Future

    Tyler Fisher (see profile) , Muslih Mustafa, Nahro Zagros
    Genocide--Study and teaching, Oral history, Anthropology, Middle East, Minorities--Study and teaching
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Genocide studies, Cultural minority studies
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    This essay endeavours to document and analyze Yezidis’ perspectives on their community’s recent suffering and on their community’s future, in their own terms. It does so by examining, specifically, Yezidi oral prophecies concerning the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) and the genocidal campaigns of 2014. The study is based on in-depth personal interviews with 39 Yezidis among the vulnerable and displaced Yezidi population of northern Iraq. These interviews deliberately include representatives from each of their hereditary castes, men and women, youth and elders, and one shamanic prophet (faqra). The perspectives and patterns that emerge in these testimonies reveal, first, the complexity of the Yezidis’ regard for prophecy within their community. Alike across generations and across socioeconomic classes, they evince no facile, uncritical acceptance of purported prophecy. Yet the degree of credence they grant to the shamans in their midst provides them the basis for important interpretive strategies when confronting the circumstances of recent years. As a community striving toward consensus, in ways that still allow for individual variations, the Yezidis are engaged in retrospectively reinterpreting prophetic utterances they recall from their childhood or from more recent times. They elaborate these predictive and evaluative discourses within a broader tradition of foretelling divine preservation as a distinct people, ultimately drawing from the prophecies an explanatory force and reassurance concerning their circumstances. In this regard, the Yezidis’ reconsideration of their shamans’ prophecies constitutes a crucial, highly adaptive strategy within their faith — one which forecasts and fortifies the very future of their imperilled religion. This study offers, moreover, a phenomenology of shamanic prophecy in the Yezidi religion, both within and alongside orthodox Yezidism. It is the first sustained analytical account of this phenomenon.
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    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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