Lament of the Ages: Memory, Voice, and Experience with the Dotāris of Torbat-e Jām

Saturday November 25, 2023
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Online Event

The event recording is now available:

The Alireza Ahmadian Lecture in Iranian and Persianate Studies presents: Lament of the Ages: Memory, Voice, and Experience with the Dotāris of Torbat-e Jām on November 25, 2023.

Poems are performed to music and understood as part of the spiritual practice of the Mojaddedi Naqshbandi Sufi order in Torbat-e Jām, Iran. The practice of the dotāris of Torbat defies the modern notion that poetic texts can be separated from the matrix uniting poet, singer, and audience in a performance where poem (as aesthetic artefact), music (as the unfolding of a structure in time), and ethics (as the “I” facing a “you” in devotion) become an indivisible whole. Recent scholarship has shed light on the institutionalisation of Persian literature in the twentieth century and the efforts to mould Persian into emergent narratives of nation and identity. The practice of the dotāris resists co-option to such a discourse: it cannot be understood unless we historicise certain ideas that have become axiomatic. By exploring the role of voice, memory, and experience in the iconic piece Navā’i, this talk seeks to understand the conceptual foundations of dotāri performance and thereby account for a practice whose origin extends beyond the ruptures of modernity.


Marie Huber is an Assistant Professor of Persian and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Her research focuses on Persian poetry and poetic performance, as well as the “marginal modernity” of Iranian New Wave filmmakers such as Fereydoun Rahnema, Parviz Kimiavi, and Nasser Taghvaei. She has recently published an article on Kimiavi titled, “The Stone Garden: Meditations on History, Experience, and the Nature of the Mystical” (Dibur), and she is the author of Memories of an Impossible Future: Mehdi Akhavān Sāles and the Poetics of Time (Brill, 2016). She is currently developing a diachronic analysis of performativity in Persian poetry along with a new book, provisionally titled, Infinite Events: Poetry, Music, and Spiritual Practice in the Shadow of Sheykh Ahmad-e Jām.


Domenico Ingenito is Associate Professor of Iranian Studies and premodern Persian Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, Bahari Fellow in the Persian Arts of the Book (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), core faculty member of the Pourdavoud Center for the Study of the Iranian World, and former director of the UCLA Program on Central Asia (2016-2021). His research interests center on ancient and medieval Iran, Persian poetry, visual culture of Iran and Central Asia, gender and translations studies, and premodern manuscript culture.

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About the Alireza Ahmadian Lectures in Iranian and Persianate Studies: Alireza Ahmadian (1981 – 2019) was an enthusiastic researcher, a consummate socio-political analyst, and an opinion leader on foreign policy who nurtured the virtues of diplomatic dialogue and liberal democracy. Alireza was a proud and devoted UBC alumnus, supporter of UBC’s Department of Asian Studies, and beloved member of Canadian-Iranian Community. The department renamed this lecture series in his honour in 2019. Alireza’s friends in the community have provided funding to support this series, and this generous gift will see these important academic and community engagement events supported through to the end of the 2025/2026 academic year. Read More …
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