Seema Golestaneh, "Unknowing of Place: Wandering, Listening and Sufi Epistemologies in Iran"

RELS Colloquium
Seema Golestaneh (Cornell University)
Oct 26, 2023 at - | Cohen 204

As authorities continue to frown upon public gatherings, Sufis in Iran have sought alternative methods of convening that allow them to maintain spaces of autonomy. One Sufi youth group does so by meeting in private homes and rotating locations each week. Rather than let the participants know the exact address of the meeting place, each week they announce an intersection at which to meet and then broadcast music to allow members to locate the site by listening and hence following the sounds.  In doing so, these young mystics are engaging with the classical Sufi concepts of wandering (sargardan) and intentional listening (sama), in some ways favoring a “literal” interpretation over a figurative one.  Hence, this talk will focus on: (1) the ways that ideas of existential wandering are implemented to help resolve a matter of state interference, (2) the formation of a Sufi, listened-for soundscape, and (3) the broader impact for the creation of such a collective Sufi space within Iran.

Seema Golestaneh is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Her research, situated at the nexus of anthropology and religious studies, is focused on expressions of contemporary Islamic thought in the Persian-speaking world.