Alireza Doostdar is an anthropologist of contemporary Islam, focusing on Iran in the 20th and 21st centuries. He specializes in imbrications and entanglements between science and religion, particularly the ways in which modern scientific imaginaries shape people’s conceptions of the supernatural, and therefore their religious beliefs and practices. His current book project, which is based on his dissertation, “Fantasies of Reason: Science, Superstition, and the Supernatural in Iran,” concentrates on these and other processes critical to a more nuanced appreciation of contemporary religiosity in Iran, particularly among the middle class, and also understanding modern state-formation in Iran, both in its secularist and Islamist varieties.
He is currently working on two articles, one on the emergence and early career of Spiritism in Iran before World War II and another on contemporary interest in mystics’ hagiographies, particularly in the power of clairvoyance with which certain Shi‘i and Sufi mystics are said to be able to peer into the truth of other humans.
Doostdar received his PhD in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. He holds master’s degrees from Harvard in anthropology (2009) and educational technology (2004), and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tehran.
Doostdar joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2012.