Department of Social Anthropology

Dr Pedram Khosronejad

The Goli Rais Larizadeh Fellow of the Iran Heritage Foundation for Anthropology of Iran

Dr Pedram Khosronejad

Phone: (01334 46) 1968

Office: Room 48, United College


Visual piety, Devotional Artefacts and Religious Material Culture in Iran, Persianate
societies and the Middle East more generally.


I am of Iranian origin, and began my studies in Tehran before moving to France with a grant to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology. My area of research is Iran, Persianate societies, and the Middle East more generally. In my doctoral fieldwork and also in subsequent fieldwork journeys, I have been mostly concerned with an ethnographic understanding of death and dying among a group of traditional pastoral nomads in the Southwest of Iran, called the Bakhtiari. In my doctoral thesis I explored themes closely related to the material and visual culture of death, namely, through an analysis of objects, artefacts and especially, tombstones, as well as the techniques implied in their creation and manipulation among the Bakhtiari. Besides working on such topics, which also included funerary rites, arts and mortuary beliefs, my research has been further motivated by an interest in visual piety, devotional artefacts, and religious material culture in the Middle East more broadly. I am particularly interested in understandings of memory, loss, and death, and their relation to material landscapes and visual representations.


See also the PURE research profile.

Academic qualifications

2001-2007 Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociale (EHESS), Paris Ph.D., Social Anthropology-Ethnography (Grade: Très honorable avec félicitations). Dissertation title: ‘Les Lions en Pierre Sculptés chez les Bakhtiâri : Description et Significations de Sculptures Zoomorphes dans une Société Tribale du Sud-ouest de l'Iran' (Stone lion sculptures among the Bakhtiari: Descriptions and Meanings of Zoomorphoric Sculptures in a Tribal Society of South-western Iran) . Supervisor: Prof. Thierry Zarcone.

2000 Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), Sorbonne D.E.A. (Diplome d'Etudes Approfondies), Methods in History, Archaeology, and History of Art.

1997 University of Art, Tehran M.A., Research Methodology in Visual Art.

1994 University of Art, Tehran B.A. in Fine Art (Painting, Photography, Sculpture)


Previous appointments

2007-2010 University of St. Andrews, Dept. of Social Anthropology The Goli Rais Larizadeh Fellow of the Iran Heritage Foundation for Anthropology of Iran

2010- 2013 Groupe Societes, Religions, Laicites (CNRS/Paris) Associated member

2007 Centro Incontri Umani, Ascona (Switzerland) Research Fellow

2005-2007 St. Antony's College, University of Oxford Junior Research Fellow at the Middle East Centre

2004-2005 The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford Associated member of the Sub-Faculty of Near & Middle Eastern Studies


Selected publications

June 2013    

Les Lions en Pierre Sculptée chez les Bakhtiari: Description et significations de sculptures zoomorphes dans une société tribale du sud-ouest de l’Iran, The Anthropology of Persianate Societies, Volume 2, Sean Kingston Publishing, U.K. (Monograph in French)

June 2013 (in print)   

Digital Art, Political Aesthetic and Social Media: Case Study of Iranian Presidential Election of 2009, International Journal of Communication. (guest editor P. Khosronejad)

Oct. 2012    

Iranian Sacred Defence Cinema: Religion, Martyrdom and National Identity, Sean Kingston Publishing, U.K.,  (edited by P. Khosronejad)

Aug. 2012     

Unburied Memories: The Politics of Bodies, and the Material Culture of Sacred Defense Martyrs in Iran, Routledge (edited by P. Khosronejad)

June 2012    

Saints and their Pilgrims in Iran and Neighboring Countries, The Anthropology of Persianate Societies Series, Sean Kingston Publishing, U.K. (edited by P. Khosronejad)

May 2011      

Beyond the Iranian Frame: From Visual Representation to Sociopolitical Drama, special issue of Journal of Iranian Studies, 44, 3, Taylor & Francis, U.S.A (guest editor P. Khosronejad)

Nov. 2011                   

The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam, I.B. Tauris Publishers, U.K. (edited by P. Khosronejad)

Research interests

Recently, I have gained theoretically from a concern with relating and juxtaposing various approaches from the anthropology of art, visual theory, and material culture, to recent research being conducted on war (particularly the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88), martyrdom and memory in the context of Shi'ite piety. One of my major aims has been to study the interplay between faith, trauma and memory, and the creation, circulation and function of religious objects and devotional artefacts. Future research, currently under development, includes an anthropological examination of Iran's ‘unknown' martyrs' belongings (photos, clothes, material remains, tombstones), and the generation of complex forms of narratives, dreams, and religious beliefs on the part of the martyrs' families, who are central to the creation of new saints and new sites of devotion and pilgrimage. This process has become increasingly relevant in the light of Iran's prominent campaigns for the reburial of unknown martyrs in recent years, which are politically as well as religiously motivated. The corpses of anonymous soldiers are seen to sanctify the sites in which they are placed, regardless of the origin of the dead, leading to the construction of new shrines in what were previously forgotten areas, and thus, new conceptualizations of religious space, memory and self.

With regards to ethnographic film, my interests follow a similar path. Inspired by the ‘Illuminative Cinema' school of Iran, which draws from Sufi notions of vision and knowledge, where the camera is ‘attached' to faith, another one of my recent aims has been to understand how the camera can work as ‘eye' and ‘body' for the documentarist in warfront situations.

Recently one of the key ways in which I have explored the above interests is through analyses of films, visual culture and digital media. For example, I have been interested in understanding the role of the digital and cyber world in the post-election movements in Iran, particularly, the processes of image transference and its resulting forms of visualizing crisis (death), both in the country and abroad. The post-election frenzy also pushed me to think about the importance of digital media in the transference and recreation of information in other ‘untouchable' or conflict-ridden areas of the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen), and its role in the production of knowledge on war, martyrdom and trauma.


Research students

Vahe Boyadjian


SA3032: Regional Ethnography I: Anthropology of Iran

SA3032: Anthropology of Post-revolutionary Iran

SA5010: Research Methods in Social Anthropology

Additional information


The Culture of Saints and the Veneration of Shrines in the Middle East and Turko-Iranian regions (Turkey, Iran and Central Asia): T. Zarcone (GSRL, France) and P. Khosronejad (2009-2013).

Ethno-historical research on the Mortuary Material Culture of Bakhtiari Nomads. J.P. Luft and P. Khosronejad, commissioned by the British Academy with the collaboration of the University of Durham, and the University of St Andrews (2004-2013)

The Art and Martyrdom in Modern Iran and the Middle East: A Study of Various Aspects of Visual Culture (Cinema/Media, Visual Art/Material Culture) Connected to Trauma and Warfare, with the collaboration of the University of Tehran and Institute of Martyrdom, Iran (2010-2013)


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