Middle East Studies

Lecture | Mehrdad Babadi | Marriage Postponed: Idealism, Cynicism and Moral Ambivalence

Mehrdad Babadi, Marriage Postponed event poster

Thursday, September 14, 2023

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room 353, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer 

Registration Required

About the Event

In this presentation, Mehrdad Babadi explores the varied reasons behind the postponement of marriage among university-educated youth in contemporary Iran. Although unemployment and other economic barriers play an important role in decisions surrounding marriage delays, he argues that psychological and ideational factors are critical to fully understanding the situation of contemporary youth. These factors – the attitudes, ideas, values, and worldviews of young Iranians – have been largely overlooked in discussions of the shape and timing of contemporary marriage and bear closer scrutiny. Three main psychological orientations or themes are repeatedly expressed by the interlocutors while discussing their attitudes toward marriage. These are idealism, cynicism, and moral ambivalence. All three are prevalent in respondents’ life histories and commentary, and not surprisingly, while one theme is sometimes dominant in the comment of a particular respondent, more often all three are in evidence, sometimes even in the same sentence or passage.


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About the Speaker
Mehrdad Babadi is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on marriage, waithood, modern intimacies, youth and gender, and generational change in Iran and the broader Middle East. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at Boston University in May 2023. His dissertation, “Marriage Postponed: The Transformation of Intimacy in Contemporary Iran,” used ethnographic and interview-based data to examine the new patterns of youth intimacy, the evolution of young people’s perspectives on premarital relationships, and the reasons behind the widespread delay in marriage among university-educated young Iranians. Babadi engages with sociocultural, psychological, and moral perspectives in order to explain the main reasons behind the delay in marriage. His research concludes that marriage postponement and the rise of premarital and non-marriage practices such as dating and cohabitation have transformed intimacy in contemporary Iran, leading to significant changes in gender relations and family structure.

Babadi’s work has been published in Waithood (edited by Marcia Inhorn and Nancy Smith-Hefner) and Zanan-e Emrooz, the leading feminist journal in Iran. Currently, he is preparing the manuscript of an article, “Rhyme of Romance: Persian Poetry in the Romantic Lives of Iranian Youth.” It explores the role and impact of classical Persian poetry on the romantic lives of contemporary young Iranians, both as a cultural model and a historical form of knowledge.

At Brown, Babadi will be working on his first book manuscript based on his dissertation research, making connections between the transformations of intimacy in contemporary Iran and the recent feminist revolutionary movement (Woman Life Freedom) that is led by women demanding their rights to bodily autonomy and the freedom to choose their social and intimate lifestyles. In addition, he will teach a course on the Ethics and Politics of Intimacy in the Middle East in the spring of 2024 and another one on the Aesthetics and Politics of Iranian Cinema in the spring of 2025.