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Reconstructing History of African Slavery in Qajar Iran: Interplay between Photography and Anthropology

Pedram Khosronejad, Farzaneh Family Chair and Associate Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies Program (IPGS), Oklahoma State University

Khosronejad lecture Khosronejad lecture
The study of Iranian photo-history is still in its infancy and began only in the late 1970s. When Western scholars focus on the contributions of European photographers in Iran and on issues of Orientalism, Iranian scholars, eager to document indigenous contributions, published evidence based on the rare collection of photographic albums of the Qajar period. None of these two groups of researchers have shown any particular interest in visual representations of the enslaved in general, and African slaves in particular, in their studies. Even among historians of Iran the topic of slaves (bardeh) and slavery (bardeh dari), especially African slavery, is a non-developed topic.

Accordingly, this presentation investigates the ways in which African slaves were represented, documented, debated, and asserted in a wide range of photographs of Iran during Qajar period (1789–1925). These images capture the presence of African slaves who have too often been ignored and erased from the historical records of Iran. We view these photographs as powerful images with enduring meanings and legacies. In that context, these photographs are important and perhaps the only historical sources that can inform the thinking of readers and scholars about the intertwined histories of African slavery and photography in Iran. All of these photographs reveal the different ways in which African slaves were posed by others, and remind us to ask ourselves about the meaning of being an African slave in Iran. Therefore, this project endeavors to demonstrate the undeniable importance of such photographs to understand the history of African slavery in Iran.

Pedram Khosronejad is Farzaneh Family Chair and Associate Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies Program (IPGS) at the Oklahoma State University and also associated member of Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laicités,CNRS-Paris, France. He obtained his PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. His research interests include cultural and social anthropology, the anthropology of death and dying, visual anthropology, visual piety, devotional artefacts, and religious material culture, with a particular interest in Iran, Persianate societies and the Islamic world. He is author of "Les Lions en Pierre Sculptée chez les Bakhtiari: Description et significations de sculptures zoomorphes dans une société tribale du sud-ouest de l’Iran (The Anthropology of Persianate Societies)," (Sean Kingston Publishing, 2013). He is also the editor of several publications: "The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam" (I.B.Tauris); "Saints and their Pilgrims in Iran and Neighboring Countries" (Sean Kingston); "Iranian Sacred Defence Cinema: Religion, Martyrdom and National Identity" (Sean Kingston); and "Unburied Memories: The Politics of Bodies, and the Material Culture of Sacred Defense Martyrs in Iran" (Routledge). He is also chief editor of the "Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia" (ACME).
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When and Where

Map School of Social Work Building - 1644

January 2017

4:00pm - 5:30pm

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