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Empirical Spirits: Islam, Spiritism, and the Virtues of Science in Iran

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Document pages: 28 pages

Abstract: This article examines some aspects of the reception of French Spiritism and psychical research in twentieth century Iran: its promotion by Iranian modernist intellectuals before the Second World War, and its appropriation by Shi‘i Muslim ‘ulama in the 1940s and 1960s. Spiritism appealed to those intellectuals and scholars who sought to reconcile their commitments to science with their religious longings and dedication to moral reform. In comparing these encounters with spirit communication, I show that the adoption of putatively scientific claims in contexts that professional scientists usually disavow can be about much more than strategic appropriation and attempts to justify preexisting doctrines. They also allow us to understand science s power to mold the moral subjectivities of reformers through selective absorption into long-continuous traditions of virtue.

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