SOAS University of London

Centre for Iranian Studies

Kamran Djam Annual Lecture at SOAS: Scientific Tropes in Modern Iranian Politics: Jinns to Germs

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto

Date: 19 February 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 19 February 2018Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT

Type of Event: Lecture

In a two part historical analysis, Professor Tavakoli explores the use of modern scientific tropes in Iranian political, cultural and historical discourses from the late nineteenth century to the present. The first lecture, “Jinns to Germs,” explains how a nineteenth-century public health crisis prompted the deployment of a wide-range of medical and microbiological concepts to recount Iran's history and to offer prognosis and diagnosis of national, social and political ills. While this shift transformed the lived habitus of early twentieth-century Iran, the prominence of a Pasteurian conception of illness also provided a generative foundation for the governmentalization and bio-politicization of Islam. In this process, jinns had become germs.

Lecture Programme

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi is Professor of Historical Studies, History, and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. He was the founding Chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto-Mississauga (2004-07), and has served as President of the International Society for Iranian Studies (2008-10). In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2001-2012), a Duke University Press journal, he was the Editor of Iran Nameh (2011-2015). He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Iran Namag, a bilingual quarterly of Iranian Studies, and is the coeditor of the Iranian Studies book series published by Routledge. In addition to three edited books, he is the author of Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (2001) and Tajaddud-i Bumi [Vernacular Modernity] (2003 and 2017). He is currently completing a manuscript that explores the discursive transformation of modern Persian political language from biopolitics to spatial governance. It traces the shift from a restorative rhetoric of the medical sciences to the constructional language of engineering.

Lecture to be preceded by a reception at 6:00pm in SG37 (ground floor, Paul Webley Wing, Senate House).

Organiser: Centre for Iranian Studies

Contact email:

Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330