|Theatre performance in Tehran (photo: Mehr). Courtesy Qantara.|
by Marian Brehmer, Qantara.de
Cultural anthropology is one of several academic disciplines where researchers maintain close links to real people in society, while at the same time – guided by their curiosity – building a bridge between the academic world and the realities of human life.
It is quite possible that this is exactly what Roxanne Varzi sets out to achieve. Varzi, an associate professor of Anthropology and Film and Media Studies at the University of California, was born in Iran and moved to the United States with her family soon after the Islamic Revolution. Unlike many American-Iranians, Varzi did not cut ties with the country of her birth and even moved back to Tehran in 1994 for four years to conduct research. Since then, she has regularly travelled to Iran to research youth culture in the Islamic Republic.
"I love the inquisitive and experimental spirit that I have encountered in Iran and wanted to channel this power of expression into my own work," she says. Varzi's documentary films and sound installations have been displayed in museums the world over. Now, she has presented the results of her research in a way that is rather unusual in academic circles, namely as fiction in the novel “Last Scene Underground: an ethnographic novel of Iran”, which tells the story of a group of students in Tehran who want to stage an illegal play underground.