Roxanne Varzi is a writer, anthropologist, filmmaker and sound artist and first Fulbright fellowship awardee since the Islamic Revolution for research in Iran (2000). She has a PhD in social cultural anthropology from Columbia University and has taught at New York University, the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), and the University of Lund, Sweden. In 2004 she was the youngest senior visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College Oxford. She has held a Woodrow Wilson Post-Doctoral Fellowship at New York Universityand a Markle Foundation New Media Fellow, at the Centre for Law, Media and Society, Wolfson College, Oxford Universityand sabbatical fellowships at the Wissenschaftskolleg/EUME and the Zentrum für Literatur und Kulturforschung(The Center for Advanced Studies) in Berlin and at the IFKin Vienna, Austria.
She is the author of Warring Souls, Media, Martyrdom and Youth in post-Revolution Iran, Duke University Press, 2006 – about the generation that was born shortly after the Revolution and came of age in the Islamic Republic, but remained secular and resistant to state pressure to become the perfect Islamic subjects. It examines closely the culture produced by the Iranian government during the Iran-Iraq War and the effect on the generation that came of age after the Revolution. The book was shortlisted for the best book by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studiesand Cambridge University, Middle East Center, British-Kuwait Friendship Book Prize in Middle Eastern Society.
Her work is inherently interdisciplinary and engages in textual and visual analysis and ethnographic research. An editor of the London Review of Books called it “the most subtle and interesting account of lives in Iran that I can imagine.” Varzi’s work on Iranian popular culture, the culture of the Iran-Iraq war and Iranian cinema has appeared in the London Review of Books, Eastern Art Report, American Anthropologist, Feminist Review, Public Culture Journal and the Annals of Social and Political Science. Her short stories are published in The New York Press and in two anthologies of Iranian-American writing: A World Between (George Braziller) Let me Tell you where I’ve been (Arkansas University Press). Her short Story, Mashti, won the prestigious society for Humanism and Anthropology’s 2007 Fiction Award. Her article about Henry Corbin and the connection to Iran’s green movement was published in the Annals of Political and Social Science in the fall of 2011. In 2012 she was awarded a fellowship at the IFK in Vienna, Austria to begin work on a book about Iran during the Corbin years.
Her first ethnographic experimental film on mourning and martyrdom in Iran, Plastic Flowers Never Die, 2009, is distributed by DER and has been shown in festivals and museums from Berlin, to Boston to Belgrade and Beirut. Her first ethnographic/art work is Whole World Blind a sound art project on the power of war visuals premiered at SoundWalk in Long Beach, CA and was shown in Berlin, Germany at the Uqbar gallery and at SOMarts in San Franscisco in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association meetings. It is currently installed at Publicbooks.org.
In 2016 She published her Independent Publishers Gold MedalAward-winning novel Last Scene Underground: An Ethnographic Novel of Iran Stanford University Press about the underground theater scene in Tehran.
Her video Installation, Salton Sublime about finding the sublime among environmental degradation premiered in Berlin Germany in 2017 and at Soundpedro in June 2017 in LA County. She recently completed her second documentary, Tehran Tourist which won a best shorts award.
Varzi’s writing has been published in The Annals of Political and Social Science,Feminist Review, Public Culture, American Anthropologist, Aeon, Eastern Art Report, The Detroit Free Press, Counterpunch, Le Monde Diplomatiqueand the London Review of Books. She has been quoted in the LA Times, New York Times, and Chronicle of Higher Educationand interviewed by NPR affiliates KUOW, WUNC, KQED, WBEZ, WNYC, and Pacifica radio as well as on MSNBC, the BBC, and KIRN, Iranian radio in Los Angeles, in print by the Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times and has given talks (including plenary and keynotes) all over the world — for a compete list of her radio, television and print interviews, to download articles, her CV and watch a trailer of her film please visit roxannevarzi.com.
Varzi is also affiliated with the Department of Film and Media, Visual Studies, Religious Studies, and the Culture and Theory PhD program. She sits on the editorial board of American Anthropologist and is on the board of the society for Humanistic Anthropology.
She is currently working on her first play. Splinters of a Careless Alphabet, which was read at the 2018 American Anthropological Association Meetings in San Jose, CA.