Thinking with the Impersonal: an Ethnographic View from Iran

Setrag Manoukian


This essay approaches the impersonal as a set of concrete relational forms that cannot be made sense of through the dominant logic of personhood. Drawing on three ethnographic settings of my long-term fieldwork in Iran, I describe how the actions of managers in a teachers’ training course, the operations of an optical mechanism that channels consumption practices, and the existential relationship poets have to their craft is best captured by paying attention to the impersonal forces that are unfolded in the process. This opens the way for a different interpretation of politics, consumption and poetry in Iran, but also for a different understanding of anthropology and, perhaps, life.


Impersonal; Iran; Management; Consumption; Poetry; Desire

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