Alireza Doostdar

Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and the Anthropology of Religion; also in the College



PhD (Harvard University)

Alireza Doostdar's research and teaching bring together anthropological approaches to the study of Islam, science, gender, embodiment, and the state. His first book, The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny (Princeton University Press, 2018), examines the rationalization of the metaphysical “unseen” in Iran since the early twentieth century. Through ethnographic and historical analysis, it considers a range of knowledges and practices usually treated as marginal to orthodox Islam: sorcery and occult sciences, séances with the souls of the dead, jinn exorcisms, the marvels of Shi‘i mystics, and various New Age-inflected therapeutic spiritualities. His second book project, tentatively titled “The Idea of an Islamic Social Science” examines Iranian attempts to “Islamize” social scientific and humanistic inquiries by placing them in conversation with Islamic philosophy, theology, ethics, and mysticism. Other interests include Iranian spiritual cinema and its engagements with Hollywood sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and the embodiment of the Islamic state through everyday practices and acts of intimacy.

Select work: 

Read a Q & A with Professor Doostdar and Religion Dispatches on his book, The Iranian Metaphysicals

The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny
Swift 227

Current and Upcoming Courses
  • Ethnographic Methods
  • Ethnographies of the Modern World
  • Shi'ism and Modernity