Shukhi-ye Zesht o Tekrāri: Performing Blackness in Iranian Entertainment
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There persists a lack of consistent critical engagement with issues of race, particularly Blackness, in Iranian spaces, despite the continuous presence of “race” in the Iranian experience. As such engagements with Blackness range from a denial of its existence in Iran to famous rapper Hichkas calling the beloved blackface figure, Hājji Firuz, as shukhi-ye zesht o tekrāri—an ugly and tired joke. This thesis explores what race means in non-Western contexts, specifically through audio-visual manifestations of race in cultural rituals and products. Siāh-bāzi, or “playing black,” blackface performances are a form of traditional theatre in which the blackface character serves as racialized comic relief. Much more common and well-known, Hājji Firuz is a perennial blackface character that announces the coming of spring and the spring New Year (Nowruz), whose racialization is also indispensable to his performances. Finally, in a more authentic portrayal of Black Iranian identity through the character of Bashu in Bahram Beyza’i’s celebrated film Bashu, the Little Stranger (1985), race nevertheless continues to be manifested physically through a visual Othering that becomes somewhat resolved through participation in the nation-state’s institutions and standard language, while at the same time revealing the racism in Iranian society and the failures of the nation-state. In examining representations of Blackness, whether as blackface performances or authentic portrayals, this thesis investigates broader questions of race, Othering, nationalism, and scholarship while questioning the wholesale application of English-language, Western-based theories to an Iranian context and rejecting essentialist analyses.
DepartmentInternational Comparative Studies
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers