Irrationalities in Islam and Media in 19th-Century Iran

Faces of Modernity

Author: Arash Ghajarjazi

About this book

This book deals for the first time with the cultural history of media in nineteenth-century Iran, a history about how modern techniques of representation and communication were received in the Iranian Shiʿa society. This reception history is examined in religious photography, military reforms, Persian passion plays, Shiʿa medicine, and the burgeoning telegraphic culture. The problematic relationship between Shīʿa Islam and 19th-century media is conceptualised and contextualised, especially through the lens of the first Polytechnique college (Dār al-Fonun, 1851) in Iran. This college is conceptualised as a media laboratory, where the technological sphere in Iran was fundamentally transforming. It is also contextualised in the age of reform, a period in which the Middle East was undergoing widespread social, political, and military changes. Islamic (art) history, Iranian Studies, and cultural analysis form an interdisciplinary analytic framework to create new knowledge about the historical complexity of 19th-century Iran.

Arash Ghajarjazi received his PhD from the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University. His work deals with the relations between Islam, sciences, and media technologies in the Middle East from the 19th century onwards. More broadly, trained both as a cultural analyst and a historian, he explores how Islamic traditions have evolved in and as media. He approaches histories of Muslim material cultures and ideas together. His work seeks a balance between historical contextualisation and philosophical conceptualisation.


Format: Hardback

Pages: 180

Illustrated: Black and White

ISBN Print: 9789087283988

ISBN ePDF: 9789400604438

Published: 30 August 2022

Language: English


  • Christoph U. Werner, University of Bamberg

    "This is a very concise and thought-provoking study on the crossroads and intersections of Qajar intellectual history, history of sciences and medicine, religious studies, media studies and Shiite Islamic studies. It does not fit smoothly into narrow disciplinary definitions, and this is what makes it so compelling, and at times challenging."

  • Sussan Babaie, University of London

    "The manuscript is written well and is original and very compellingly argued. The subject offers brilliant insights into the ways Iranian Shi’i belief systems, habits and praxis intersect with and adjust to new technologies and appropriate their potentialities to naturalise, through ‘the absurd’, those new ways of sensing the world."

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