SUMMARY:Narratives of concealment, absence and hiding hold a special place in Shiʿi intellectual and political history – especially the Twelver Shiʿi doctrine of the ghayba, and the Ismaili doctrine of satr. These doctrines have important differences and similarities which are rarely studied together. Thus, this panel presents a variety of new perspectives upon these related doctrines; analyzing the textual history of the doctrines, the rich social and political context of their development, and the changing meanings which these doctrines took on as part of the longue-durée history of Shiʿi thought. The various papers bring together new scholarship that questions traditional narratives of doctrinal stasis, showing the doctrines of ghayba and satr, instead, to be constantly in flux, as new social resources are deployed in their reproduction and interpretation. In addition to seeking to understand the formative phases of doctrinal development, then, this panel also seeks to highlight the reception history of these doctrines. The attention to the reception of doctrine is crucial to understanding the ongoing significance of these doctrines for Shiʿa at different historical period.
The papers in this panel indicate the historical processes that give rise to the flux in doctrine and its interpretation: both intellectual and political. Thus, the successive ruptures in the history of Ismaili authority are followed by important doctrinal adjustments to the theories of cyclical Imamic absence and presence; appearance and disappearance which recast existing narrative and conceptual resources to respond to the power structures of new eras. Equally, the origins of the of the Twelver occultation theory draws upon shared Shiʿi narrative and conceptual resources common to Ismailis also, and strongly influenced by earlier Imami sectarian groups like the wāqifa who upheld the continued Imamate of the Hidden 7th Imam, Mūsā al-Kāẓim, though the Twelvers crucially altered these resources to accommodate, for example, the power of the representatives of the Hidden Imam during the lesser occultation.
While the dominant scholarly paradigm in Shiʿi studies is to treat intellectual and social developments separately for different sects, this panel will bring together recent research to foster the approach of ‘comparative Shiʿism’, which allows for the stemmatic analysis of textual resources in different communities and the sociological comparison between the diverse, yet genetically related power structures of Shiʿism in the wider sense.