Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Iran's "Ancient Sports" (varzesh-e bastani) as Invented Tradition

with Dr. Houchang Chehabi, Boston University

Mon, September 30, 2019 | RLP 1.302B

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM


In contemporary Iran, varzesh-e bāstāni, “ancient sport,” refers to a series of exercises that have been traditionally performed in gymnasia called zurkhāneh, “House of Strength.” Conventional wisdom has it that this institution is infused with a spirit of chivalry, javānmardi, and originates in pre-Islamic Iran. It is argued that traditional Iranian exercises have much more prosaic origins, and thatvarzesh-e bāstāni is a tradition “invented,” and “re-invented” to fit shifting ideological needs. The talk will chronicle the evolution of the ideological appropriations of these exercises from the nineteenth century to the present.

Sponsored by: the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of History

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