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Deakin Anthropology Seminar: The Repugnant Anthropologist

Deakin Anthropology Seminar: The Repugnant Anthropologist

Event Venue:

Deakin Downtown 727 Collins StreetDocklands, VIC, 3008, Australia ( Map )

Please join us on Thursday 4 April for our next Deakin Anthropology Seminar with Dr Simon Theobald: The repugnant anthropologist: Suffering interlocutors and the ethnographer’s understanding of the good life in contemporary Iran. 


This paper responds to the question of what it means for the anthropologist to be their interlocutors’ ‘repugnant other’. Much of my fifteen months of ethnographic research in Iran was carried out among well-educated middle-income interlocutors, many of whom were desperate to leave, convinced that their lives would be radically improved in another country. Yet as a non-Iranian who had grown up in a typical destination country, and as an anthropologist who was committed to destabilising normative assumptions about the global applicability of ‘Western values’, I frequently hesitated when they asked me to confirm their concerns. This trepidation was met with scepticism at best, and derision at worst. Here, I explore: what does it mean for our understanding of an anthropology that critically engages with the questions of the good life and suffering when the very act of doing so is understood by our interlocutors as indicative of our disregard for their pain, and a failure to properly comprehend the ‘universality’ of human desires for the good?  

Speaker Bio

Simon Theobald is a graduate of the Australian National University. His PhD research was based on 14 months in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, and examined the persistence of utopianism as a ‘mythic promise’ that was bequeathed by revolutionary forces to the present. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg (2021-2022) he analysed the relationship of certainty and doubt among Iranian Shi’a attending the Islamisches Zentrum Hamburg, a religious institution associated with ‘pro-Republican’ piety in Iran. His work has been published in journals such as Critique of Anthropology, and American Ethnologist, among others. 

Additional Details

Our speaker will be presenting in-person at Deakin Downtown but you can also join us via Zoom: 

Meeting ID: 865 2240 4836 

Password: 76602211 

Staff, HDRs and students are all welcome. 

Any inquiries please contact David Giles or Timothy Neale 


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