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Ata Anzali

Associate Professor of Religion

 work(802) 443-5759
 Spring Semester: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-3. Schedule your appointment here:
 Munroe Hall 202

I joined the Religion Department in the fall of 2012 as an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies right after receiving my PhD from the department of Religious Studies at Rice University. Prior to that, I studied at the Qom Seminary focusing on Islamic rational disciplines, including speculative mysticism and philosophy. I also received a master's degree in Islamic Philosophy and Theology from the University of Tehran. I have had an enduring interest in mysticism and esotericism as subjects of research. Simultaneously, I am deeply interested in the history of concepts as a means to reflect on religious, social, and political change and transformation, especially in the modern era. My first monograph, ‘Mysticism’ in Iran, combines these interests by tracing the history of the concept of ‘irfan in Persian literature from the seventeenth century to contemporary times. It illustrates how relevant socio-political and religious transformations in Persia, namely the conversion of its populace to a Twelver Shi’i realm under the Safavids and its transformative encounter with European modernity during the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, helped forge and re-forge the semantic field of ‘irfan until it became the term that is used nowadays almost as an equivalent to ‘mysticism’ in English. In my current research project, I focus on H. K. Iranshahr (d. 1962), an Iranian intellectual/mystic based in Europe, and how his writings influenced the formation of modern discourses of spirituality in Iran. I am particularly interested in Iranshahr as an esotericist who was heavily influenced by Theosophy and how he facilitated the transmission of some of the fundamental teachings of the occult scene in Europe to Iran. Other topics of interest are theories and methods in the study of religion, the comparative study of religion, the early history of Islam and the Qur’an, and modern religious reform movements in the Middle East.


Department of Religion

Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753