SOAS University of London

Centre for Iranian Studies

Kamran Djam Annual Lecture at SOAS: Scientific Tropes in Modern Iranian Politics: Engineering Governmentality

015Cltural Engineering
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto

Date: 20 February 2018Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

The second lecture by Professor Tavakoli, “Engineering Governmentality,” explores the concurrent political ascendency of Shi‘i clerics and the national prominence of engineers and engineering schools in the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution. In a conjoined historical and epistemological analysis, Professor Tavakoli explains how the Shi‘i clerical commitment to the building of a divinely inspired society converged with the professional pursuits of engineers and engineering companies. This conversion of commitments and interests hastened the fusion of Islamic theology and eschatology with engineering rhetoric and constructional concerns. This is evident in the emergence of a cluster of novel conceptions such as “the geometry of theology,” “the geometry of religious knowledge,” and the more important “divine geometry,” which is used specifically by Iran’s Supreme Leader to refer to the “Islamic Republic System.” These tropes and analytics are utilized for the advancement of policies involving “cultural engineering,” “religious re-engineering,” “mind engineering,” “soul engineering,” and even “engineering spirituality.” Unlike the prerevolutionary period, many cabinet and parliament members in the four decades after the revolution were engineers with close ties to engineering schools and companies, which constituted two fundamental pillars of power and knowledge in the Islamic Republic. With the professional success of engineers, Iranian seminary schools have been producing a new generation of multi-disciplinary Islamic scholars (mujtahandis) who have supplemented their seminary education with engineering school degrees. Dually titled for their seminary and engineering education, they are hailed as “Hujjat al-Islam Muhandis.” While Hujjat al-Islam is the title for seminary school graduates, “muhandis” is the title given to engineering school graduates.

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.

Organiser: Centre for Iranian Studies

Contact email: vp6@soas.ac.uk

Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330