Zar in Iranian Cinema: On Indian Ocean Slavery’s Archival Legacy

Parisa Vaziri, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University
Thu February 10th 2022, 12:00 - 1:00pm

Zar, a constellation of belief and therapeutic response to spirit winds, has long been considered a ritual trace attesting to the movement of African slavery in the Indian Ocean world. This talk considers representations of the spirit healing ritual zar in Iranian ethnographic filmmaking in the 1960s and 70s. In attending to the abstraction of zar as it travels across one Iranian filmmaker’s oeuvre, I interrogate the models of memory and of historicity opened up by Indian Ocean slavery’s enigmatic archival legacy.

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Parisa Vaziri is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Her research explores the legacies of Indian Ocean slavery from an interdisciplinary perspective. Her book project, Racial Blackness and Indian Ocean Slavery: Iran’s Media Archive, is forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press and explores Iranian cinema as a site of historical transmission for the legacy of slavery in Iran.