Donna Honarpisheh

Possession as Form: The Modernist Temporality of Zar in 20th Century Iran

My research traces aesthetic representations of zār (the Afro-Iranian ritual and spirit possession that has its roots in East Africa) in modernist Iranian film and fiction. While Iran’s history of slavery and contemporary race relations is elided from national narratives, 20th century aesthetic production from the south of Iran (the Persian Gulf region) reflects zār as a mythic, spiritual, and elemental force that links Iran to East Africa, and foregrounds the lived experiences of Black Iranians. In supplementing my literary readings with semi-ethnographic findings, I will deepen the frame of reference on this ritual and the Afro-Iranian community in Iran beyond aesthetic representations.