Nahal Naficy is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Allameh Tabatabaie University in Iran. She studied English Literature in Tehran and Cultural Anthropology in Texas. Rice Anthropology Department, where she received her Ph.D. from in 2007, had a reputation for fostering cross-disciplinary conversations and intellectual discussions and experiments concerning both ethnographic fieldwork and writing. Her dissertation, ‘Persian Miniature Writing: An Ethnography of Iranian Organizations in Washington DC’ was the culmination of her experiments with combining her anthropological training and literary sensibilities. Upon the completion of her PhD, she was nominated for a fellowship at the Harvard Society of Junior Fellows and part of her dissertation was published in Fieldwork Is Not What It Used to Be: Learning Anthropology’s Method in a Time of Transition, ed. by James D. Faubion and George E. Marcus (Cornell University Press, 2009).

She also presented a number of papers on her use of Persian Miniatures in conferences across the US and wrote a piece on the topic for the journal of the Museum der Weltkulturen in Frankfurt. In 2008, she returned to Iran after nearly a decade and taught courses on the Anthropology of Science and Technology, Anthropology of America, and Art and Social Theory among others in universities across Tehran.

Persian Miniatures as Figures of a Whole:
Ethnographic Reflections on Iranian-ness Inside and Outside Iran

ICI Project 2012-14

My goal in this project is to argue for an alternative way of fashioning a whole in ethnography that does not shift the center of gravity too far from the beating heart of the experience itself and the mixed and sometimes conflicting sensual, moral, practical, geographical, political, and other spaces through which it is simultaneously lived. I propose one way to do this is by borrowing modalities of observation, imagination, and articulation from certain artistic traditions and appropriating them as ethnographic modalities, or to use certain aesthetic forms as metaphors for conceptualizing social and cultural phenomena.

The project builds upon my doctoral research which combined an ethnographic study of Iranian political, cultural, scholarly, and civic organizations in Washington DC with a close study of Persian manuscript illustrations of circa 14th-18th c. (commonly known as Persian Miniatures) during a internship at the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art. At ICI Berlin, I plan to develop my ideas into a manuscript that will be a contribution to ethnographic theory as well as a novel account of Iranian contemporary experiences at a time of internal and international conflict.