Maziyar Ghiabi
Senior medical humanities lecturer

The epistemology of the intoxicated: some thoughts from the Islamicate world

In this presentation, I aim to unearth a historical and epistemic figure of intoxication from thirteenth-century Iran, known as the rend. I argue that the rend embodies an ethics-of-life that bears the potential to move our understanding of intoxication beyond West-centric scripts. It is an experiment in thinking intoxication as a form of world building, showing how non-Western knowledge and practice made other realities—and experiences —possible.

In this way, I position the Islamicate world beyond the myths of the quintessential intoxicated Orient or as the inherent space of religious prohibitions. Rather than contention with existing critical scholarship, this article tries to air and ground the possibilities of new conversations about intoxication and human experience by reclaiming the historical and ethical potentials of unorthodox lives in the Islamicate world. In turn, this approach attempts to take the study of intoxication and drugs beyond the question of objects, commodities, assemblages, or “lost and unheard voices” and to traverse into ambiguous territories where our understanding of intoxication involves a form of life, not a judgement.

Dr Maziyar Ghiabi is Wellcome Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities and Politics at the University of Exeter and the Director of the Centre for Persianate and Iranian Studies (CPIS) at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS). He works on the politics of health by mobilising historical, ethnographic and visual methodologies through a transdisciplinary approach.

Over the past 15 years he has carried out archival and ethnographic fieldwork in Iran and Lebanon as well as in/on South and Central América, Central Asia and North Africa. Maziyar's first monograph, Drugs Politics: Managing Disorder in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2019), was awarded the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) Nikki Keddie Award for best book on 'revolution, society and/or religion'.

He is the Principal Investigator of a Wellcome University Award on Living 'addiction' in states of disruption: a transdisciplinary approach to drug consumption and recovery in the Middle East (2021-2026). Prior to joining Exeter, Maziyar held research and teaching positions at the departments of Development Studies at SOAS, the Paris School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (aka EHESS), the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, and SciencesPO. He completed his MPhil and DPhil degree in Politics at Oxford, St Antony’s College in 2017. Maziyar has produced research output in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Farsi. His forthcoming book co-authored with Billie Jeanne Brownlee is titled States without People under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press (2024).