A Virtual Conversation on Anthropologies of Knowledge in Iran

Apr 21, 2021, 12:00 pm12:00 pm
Free, Open to the Public
Event Description

Knowledge, in its different forms and vocabularies, occupies a central place in modern Iran. Discourses of Islamic philosophy, law, and theology, Persian poetry and literary genres, human sciences and social theory, among others, are both foundational to contemporary configurations of Iranian society and are identified as objects of knowledge, taken up for competing sociopolitical projects in Iran and among Iranians in the diaspora. While varied and often polemical, Iranian debates on the history and historicity of knowledge as well as the poetics and politics of interpretation provincialize predominantly Anglophone scholarly and political discourses on Iran. In anthropology, they invite us to move beyond theorization of Iran within seemingly transhistorical discourses and instead reflect on the novel opportunities that the movement of Iranian history and its constitutive debates hold for rethinking anthropology as a discourse of difference and translation.

Watch the conversation.

This conversation addresses the centrality of knowledge in Iran by inquiring about poetry and translation. Setrag Manoukian considers how poetry as a relational form of knowledge, while nurtured by national and civilizational trajectories, displaces them and provides a different mode of existence. Milad Odabaei examines the proliferation of practices of the reading and translation of social and political thought in the wake of the 1979 Revolution as both an instrumental replication of European discourses in “native” garb and a reckoning with the epistemological limit of inherited paradigms of knowledge.

Setrag Manoukian is an anthropologist who teaches at the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. He is interested in knowledge and its relationship with power, understood both as existential and social force. He approaches cities, poems, videos and other technologies as forms of knowledge with specific histories and existential trajectories. His research area is Iran. He is the author of City of Knowledge in Twentieth Century Iran: Shiraz, history, poetry (Routledge 2012) and other essays on a variety of topics including temporality, audio-vision, publicness and the notion of the impersonal. He has also published an Italian translation and commentary of the ghazals of Sa'di Shirazi L' Argento di un Povero Cuore (Rome 1991).

Milad Odabaei is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University. His research interests include history and historiography of Iran, religion and politics, violence and subjectivity, as well as translation and migration. His writings have appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle EastComparative Islamic StudiesHAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and the edited volume Iran’s Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and Narratives of the Enlightenment. His is currently working on his first book manuscript, The Outside: Translation and Iranian Travails of Learned Politics, which offers a historical and anthropological reflection on the translation of European social thought in contemporary Iran.

Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies