Ajam Podcast #20: Metaphysics and the Occult in Iran

Episode 20 August 02, 2020 00:31:43
Ajam Podcast #20: Metaphysics and the Occult in Iran
Ajam Media Collective Podcast
Ajam Podcast #20: Metaphysics and the Occult in Iran
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Show Notes

In this episode, Rustin and Ali interview Alireza Doostdar, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and the Anthropology of Religion at the University of Chicago. He is the author of [The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny](https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691163772/the-iranian-metaphysicals), published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Dr. Doostdar explores the neglected aspects of religion and spirituality in Iran, specifically practices that are often categorized in the realm of superstition, magic, and the occult. The interview opens with a discussion of two different yet entangled traditions that engage with the immaterial world in contemporary Iran: the "strange" or "hidden" sciences ('ulum-e qaribeh or 'ulum-e khafiyeh) that developed in Iran and nearby regions, and the esoteric sciences imported from Europe in the nineteenth century. These two lineages include beliefs and practices such as sorcery, alchemy, astrology, spiritism, mesmerism, and theosophy. Dr. Doostdar explains that these traditions form the foundations of Iranian metaphysics and serves as a testament to the plurality and ambiguity of religious practice in the Islamic Republic. Towards the end of the episode, Dr. Doostdar discusses his own perceived run-in with the unseen world during his fieldwork.

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