This talk will examine the ways in which the contemporary mystical experience in Iran translates itself into the larger social realm, and vice versa. In particular, I will discuss an instance of the destruction of a Sufi meeting place (khaneqah) by the local authorities in the city of Isfahan in February 2009 and the Sufis’ response not to mourn the site, but to actively and deliberately forget it in order to disavow the material in favor of the spiritual. My focus is hence twofold: first, an analysis of the Sufis’ reaction to the actions of the authorities, both before and after the demolition, and the order’s curious decision to “remember to forget” the site; and second, how such an unknowing of memory compares to other forms of commemoration put forth by other Iranian intellectuals as well as the state itself.
Seema Golestaneh is Assistant Professor in Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Her research, situated at the nexus of anthropology and religious studies, is focused on contemporary Islamic thought in the Persian speaking world. Her first book, Unknowing and the Everyday: Sufism and Knowledge in Iran (Duke University Press) traces the social and material life of mystical epistemologies. Her new project examines intellectual histories of Afghanistan, with a focus on Islamic leftist thought of the 1980s and 1990s.