Alireza Doostdar's Critical Reads

May 2nd, 2018

Alireza Doostdar is assistant professor of Islamic Studies and the anthropology of religion at the University of Chicago. He will be discussing his new book The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny on May 3rd at 6pm at the Co-op. He will be joined in conversation by Bruce Lincoln.

The Lighthouse and the Observatory by Daniel Stolz - A lucid and sophisticated study of astronomy as practiced by Islamic scholars and European-trained professionals in 18th and 19th century Egypt, which Stolz analyzes in relation to French, Egyptian, and British imperial projects.

Medicine and the Saints by Ellen Amster - A remarkable history of the ways in which the French colonization of North Africa led to a remaking of medical knowledge and practice along with bodies and their relationship to the cosmos and the divine.

How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser - The Cold War almost buried serious philosophical reflection on the meanings of quantum physics. A rag-tag group of hippies revived it through their unconventional experiments with parapsychology and what eventually came to be known as the New Age. Kaiser tells the gripping story of how this came about and who made it happen.

The Place of Enchantment by Alex Owen - At the turn of the 19th-20th century, Occultism was an avant-garde pursuit. Owen masterfully lays out its many dimensions, from the political through the sexual, the scientific, and the spiritual.

The Arabic Freud by Omnia El Shakry - It's all too easy to think of psychoanalysis as incompatible with Islamic thought. But Freud proved immensely fruitful for Arab Muslim theorists of a range of persuasions, and El Shakry gives a masterful account of their encounters with his thought.

Kupilikula by Harry West - A wonderful study of sorcery and politics in Mozambique, and the inspiration for the chapter structure of my book.

The Possession at Loudun by Michel de Certeau - A tragic and gripping story is meticulously unpacked here to reveal layer upon layer of incredible insight into 17th century French politics, science, and religion.

In the Dust of This Planet by Eugene Thacker - You don't need to believe in the occult to see how it can be useful for coming to grips with such unthinkable terrors as cataclysmic climate change and the destruction of the human race.

Mantle of the Prophet by Roy Mottahedeh - If you read only one book (other than mine!) to understand Iranian history, religion, and politics, let it be this sweeping masterpiece.

About The Iranian Metaphysicals: What do the occult sciences, seances with the souls of the dead, and appeals to saintly powers have to do with rationality? Since the late nineteenth century, modernizing intellectuals, religious leaders, and statesmen in Iran have attempted to curtail many such practices as "superstitious," instead encouraging the development of rational religious sensibilities and dispositions. However, far from diminishing the diverse methods through which Iranians engage with the immaterial realm, these rationalizing processes have multiplied the possibilities for metaphysical experimentation.