War on Bodies: Moral Immunity and the Psychopolitics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Iran

Iran has been one of the worst hit countries by the Coronavirus pandemic, while its pandemic response has been shaped by the politicization of the outbreak and the securitization of information about it. This landscape of suspicion reveals a particular form of biopolitics that underlies the society’s structures of social and moral immunity, which are significant in determining the afterlife of a pandemic and emerging local and global biologies and socialities. This project is an attempt to trace the psychological life of the Coronavirus pandemic and the psycho-politics of its emergence and evolution, in order to understand the specific processes and forces in which the pandemic gains a local life and what it reveals about society.


Orkideh Behrouzan is a physician, medical anthropologist, anthropologist of science and technology, and the author of Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran (2016, Stanford University Press). She is the founder of the Beyond Trauma Initiative, and a bilingual author and poet in Persian and English. For more, please see: www.orkidehbehrouzan.com

Maziyar Ghiabi is a Wellcome Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter. His primary work has concerned the study of illegal drugs and ‘addiction’ in West Asia and in the global South. Maziyar’s current project is titled Living ‘Addiction’ in States of Disruption funded by Wellcome Trust (2021-26). Before this, Maziyar was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Drugs & (Dis)Order Project, based at the SOAS (University of London) and held research and teaching positions at Oxford University, the EHESS and SciencesPO. His first book Drugs Politics: Managing Disorder in the Islamic Republic of Iran (London: Cambridge University Press, 2019, also in Open Access) was awarded the 2020 Best Book of the Year (Nikki Keddie Prize) by the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA). Maziyar obtained his DPhil in Politics from Oxford University in 2017.

Talk format:
17.00-17.05 Edmund Herzig to conduct introductions
17.05-17.25 Orkideh to talk and present
17.25-17.35 Maziyar to respond to Orkideh
17.35-17.40 Orkideh to respond to Maziyar
17.40-18.00 Questions and answers from the audience