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Parisa Vaziri, "The Turmoil of Facts: Racial Blackness, Zār and Indian Ocean Slavery”

Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 4:45pm to 6:15pm

Virtual Event

Part of the Fall 2021 ICM New Conversation Series

Parisa Vaziri, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University


he legacies of African slavery in the Indian Ocean world are notoriously difficult to theorize. This is so given the relative absence of archival evidence, particularly before the 19th century. This talk considers ways of orienting toward the past of African slavery in the Indian Ocean that are not modeled by the archival logics of historiography, and that are rooted instead, in the imaginative resources offered by a ubiquitous spirit healing ritual practiced by African descendants in Southwest Asia and known as zār. Premised on movement, rhythm, secrecy, and loss of selfhood, by definition, zār is at odds with the order of knowledge required for authoritative claims to truth. Rather than take this as a sign of its lack, this talk considers zār’s potential for inventing its own mode of historicity, as well as its own relation to raciality.


Parisa Vaziri is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies. She joined Cornell in 2018, after earning her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Visual Studies from the University of California, Irvine. Her forthcoming book, Racial Blackness and Indian Ocean Slavery: Iran’s Media Archive, explores Iranian cinema as a site of historical transmission for global legacies of African slavery. In her teaching, as in her research, she is interested in exploring critical engagements with the category of the human and of normative subjectivity as these critiques have been articulated by fields like Black studies, postcolonial studies, gender and sexuality studies, and media studies.



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Near Eastern Studies, Comparative Literature, Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM), Africana Studies and Research Center


nescal, middleeasterncal, govtcal, complit, cashum, africal


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Parisa Vaziri

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