Research Article

Essentialism in Zoroastrian boundary construction


Abstract

The article explores tensions in contemporary Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest practiced religions, over who a “real” Zoroastrian is, what, for Zoroastrians, constitutes the essence of Zoroastrianism and how constructed collective boundaries may or may not be crossed. Considering diverse perceptions amongst Zoroastrians, it demonstrates various forms of essentialism that are employed to mark boundaries around and between Zoroastrians. It also reflects how essentialist notions are used, amongst others, to protect the Zoroastrian community’s culture and wealth and to prevent assimilation or expand its boundaries by including newcomers. The article is based on ethnographic data collected at the 2018 World Zoroastrian Congress in Perth, supplemented by fieldwork in the second half of 2019 in the USA.

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