Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature & Near Eastern Studies
Parisa Vaziri is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Her research and teaching interests explore critiques of history, the subject, and the concept of the human as articulated primarily by Black critical thought, poststructuralist theory, and film and media studies. Her book-in-progress, Racial Blackness and Indian Ocean Slavery: Iran’s Cinematic Archive, theorizes the cinematically mediated legacies of African enslavement in the Indian Ocean and their implications for notions of context, cultural specificity, and historicity as self-evident, impermeable modes of appeal. Racial Blackness and Indian Ocean Slavery places the understudied history of African enslavement in the Indian Ocean in mutual relation with the more theoretically robust history of transatlantic slavery, arguing for blackness as a (historically enigmatic) form of global relationality. Simultaneously, the book offers a new history of Iranian cinema that foregrounds the tensions between experimental aesthetics and prerevolutionary commercial cinema, positing cinema as an exemplary repository for the technological and cultural anxieties that modernity proffers as ontological. At Cornell, Vaziri holds a joint appointment with Near Eastern Studies and teaches courses on race, critical theory, slavery, and film and media. She has published articles in Philosophy Today, Qui Parle, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and TDR: The Drama Review, among other journals.
At the Society for the Humanities, Vaziri will extend her interventions into history via comparative slavery with a shifted focus on trans-Saharan slavery and its phenomenological and cinematic traces. The legacies of trans-Saharan slavery, encompassing the trades from West Africa to North Africa and the Mediterranean, are, like the legacies of Indian Ocean slavery, relatively obscure. This is so despite trans-Saharan’s vast duration, which dates back to antiquity. In her second book project, Vaziri interrogates the prevailing refusal of relationality which characterizes most scholarship on trans-Saharan slavery, arguing that trans-Saharan slavery expresses its historicity through embodied practices that articulate a unique theory of historical context. Transmitted by descendants of enslaved Africans, such ritual practices overlap with Indian Ocean forms like zār, but include a broader range of manifestations: gnawa (Morocco), stambelī (Tunisia), and dīwān (Algeria), for example. Ritual ceremonies, replete with heightened sensual stimulation, ensue when clinical frameworks fail to alleviate psychic pain. At ritual’s climax, consciousness—and context—therapeutically dissipates. Black healing rituals, when read through the formal elements of the media in which they appear, provoke meditation on the relationship between trans-Saharan slavery and its historical transmission, challenging the prevailing refusal of global black relationality produced by historiographic accounts of race and comparative slavery.
"False Differends: Racial Slavery and the Genocidal Example." Philosophy Today, Feb. 2022
"No One's Memory: Blackness at the Limits of Comparative Slavery." Project on Middle East Political Science 44: Racial Formations in Africa and the Middle East: A Transregional Approach, Sept. 2021
"Thaumaturgic, Cartoon Blackface." Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association, "Cultural Constructions of Race and Racism in the Middle East and North Africa," issue 10, no.1, Spring 2021
“Arb’ain and Bakhshu’s Lament: African Slavery in the Persian Gulf and the Violence of Cultural Form.” Antropologia: Racial Questions: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Dynamics in Africa and the Middle East, vol. 7, no. 1, April 2020
“On ‘Saidiya’: Indian Ocean World Slavery and Blackness Beyond Horizon.” Qui Parle, vol. 28, no. 2, Dec. 2019
“Pneumatics of Blackness: Nasir Taqvai’s Bad-i Jin and Modernism’s Anthropological Drive.” Persian Literature and Modernity: Production and Reception. Edited by Hamid Rezaei Yazdi and Arshavez Mozafari. Routledge, 2018
“Windridden: On the Nonvalue of Nonidentification.” Liquid Blackness, vol. 3, no. 6, 2017, pp. 66-79.
“Blackness and the Metaethics of the Object.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, no. 29, 2016.