The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
People
The Tale of the Four Virtuous Women

What is involved, then, in that finding of the “true story,” that
discovery of the “real story” within or behind the events that
come to us in the chaotic form of “historical records”? What
wish is enacted, what desire is gratified, by the fantasy that real
events are properly represented when they can be shown to
display the formal coherency of a story? In the enigma of this
wish, this desire, we catch a glimpse of the cultural function
of narrativizing discourse in general, an intimation of the
psychological impulse behind the apparently universal need
not only to narrate but to give to events an aspect of narrativity.

In his influential volume The Content of the Form, Hayden White argues that, in the context of the writing of history, narrativity is both a universal human inclination and inseparable from “morality or a moralizing impulse.”1 In this chapter I present four Indian women’s descriptions of their relationships with Ḥusain Ṭekrī, and I explicate how their healing processes are reconciled with the universal need to give events an aspect of narrativity. While these four individuals are not historians writing history, both their projects and my own involve, in one way or another, the use of narrative to render the past meaningful. The different forms of narrative that these four individuals use to negotiate their own pasts generally support Whites assertion that narrativity is a universal human impulse and driven by morality in the broadest sense of the word, that is, driven by a desire to render the past comprehensible and acceptable.

In recording and analyzing their narratives, I seek to illuminate the morality that underlies them and to demonstrate narratives unique ability to make this morality real, that is, to make it explicit, powerful, and au-

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