Institut für Sozialanthropologie

M.A. Baumann, Dorothée

Mahroo Movahedi explores themes of culture, landscape and language questioning the notion of identity and sense of belonging. The audio-visual elements of her work shift in the shapes of documentary-experimental style. She engages with the representation(s) of self and other through the lens of her experience of living in and between different spaces, cultures and languages.

A sensory ethnography of Zayanderood (Life-giving River) in Isfahan, Iran

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble, Professor at Social Anthropology Department ,the University of Bern
Professor Andi Schoon, Professor at Hochschule Der Künst Bern (HKB)

This research is a collaborative process through understanding people’s senses, experiences and memoryescape of the Zayanderood, or “Life-giving river” in the city of Isfahan in Iran. A sensory ethnographical research is a form of reflexivity through senses which ethnographer engages with her/his own experiences. The important aspects in this research is the sensory stimulation of memories via sight, sound and smell, the reporting of the sensual experiences, and the resulting thoughts and imaginations of the participants about past and present places, activities and feelings. This is due to the fact that this river performed a vital historical role; furthermore, for the droughts it started altering the city's image, which also led to changes in its recreational usage. Despite the broad consensus that Zavanderood is an essential element of the city, surprisingly little is known about what impact it has on the local people's senses. Therefore, the primary objective is to provide an understanding of how the inhabitants of Isfahan sense their environment, particularly the bank and the bed of the river, and the prominent old bridges. it also aims to report how they respond to the environmental alterations, especially to the shortage of water. Thereby, the study reveals to what extent the inhabitants of a city are able to adapt to the changes in their natural surroundings. The study has relevance to anyone who needs to reconcile two worlds (such as past and present, there and here, presence and absence, for example the disorientation of emigrants). It is also relevant to human adaption to changes, and to the integration of sensory stimuli in memory.