Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Peter Green Lecture on the Modern Middle East with Niloofar Haeri – ‘Say What Your Longing Heart Desires’: An Ethnography of Spontaneous Prayer in Iran

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer Street

By invitation only

Reception to follow

Part of a year-long series entitled “Iran Today” aimed at sophisticated discussion of contemporary Iranian society and culture as a countermeasure to the general lack of knowledge and sensational coverage circulated in US media.

This presentation is based on fieldwork among a group of Shi’a women in Tehran. Niloofar Haeri, professor of anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, examines du’a (spontaneous prayer) in the lives of her interlocutors—when do they engage in it, why, and what do they say to God. How does du’a transform conceptions of God; and how has it entered the post-revolutionary debates about ‘true Islam?’

Du’a is an exalted form of worship among Muslims and there is a vast literature concerning its virtues and necessity, and yet, it has received far less attention in the role it plays in Muslim subjectivity within the social sciences. Muslims are routinely characterized on the basis of what is required of them to do and not what is “favored” but not obligatory. Professor Haeri will offer examples of how God is addressed and show the importance of studying acts of du’a ethnographically, historically and theologically.

Middle East Studies