Northwestern Events Calendar


Signs of Satan in Iran: Hollywood, Cosmopolitanism, Paranoia — Alireza Doostdar

When: Monday, November 5, 2018
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, Room 1-515 (The Forum), 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free of charge and open to the public

Contact: Danny Postel  

Group: Middle East and North African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Hollywood productions live complex social lives in Iran. They are consumed as objects of entertainment, contemplated as vehicles of spiritual meaning, and criticized as agents of Western cultural influence. With fantasy and horror cinema, these diverse responses take on existential weight, nurturing metaphysical speculations and feeding paranoid conspiracies. In his presentation, Alireza Doostdar examines Hollywood’s Iranian circulations as windows onto a distinctive mode of spiritual cosmopolitanism, reflecting on the manifest and occult ways in which cinema configures people’s lives.

Alireza Doostdar is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and the Anthropology of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His research and teaching bring together anthropological approaches to the study of Islam, science, gender, embodiment, and the state.

His book The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny (Princeton University Press, 2018) examines the rationalization of the metaphysical “unseen” in Iran since the early 20th century. Through ethnographic and historical analysis, it considers a range of knowledges and practices usually treated as marginal to orthodox Islam: sorcery and occult sciences, séances with the souls of the dead, jinn exorcisms, the marvels of Shi‘i mystics, and various New Age-inflected therapeutic spiritualities.

This lecture is part of the MENA program's quarterly New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies series, which presents scholars from a range of disciplines taking new approaches to the study of the region.

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