Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
This paper draws from ethnographic research in post-revolutionary Iran to explore how the state and its supporters are creating relationships between kin, citizens, and God through the channeling and containment of sacred, relational substances. In Iran, mystical blessings, often understood as taking substantive form in blood or food, are markers of both relationship and ethical transformation. Shi`i state elites and supporters tie the blood of kinship to the blood and sacrifice of Iran-Iraq War martyrs. They harness blood’s relational, material, and blessed properties in museum displays and commemorations to delineate and sanctify an Islamic nation composed of pure, kindred citizens. Food has similar efficacy: pious acts of sharing food at home infuse the rituals of state power to create citizens who embody familial piety, purity, and closeness to God. This paper focuses on the ways in which these sacred substances of Iranian kinship co-mingle in and between bodies in the processes of ethical transformation that infuse Iranian kinship and statecraft. I examine the unique material and metaphorical qualities of blood and food, and the multiple ways they spark ethical transformation beyond the confines of the individual subject-self.My aim is to bring an explicit discussion of kinship and relational substances into theories of Islam and ethical cultivation.