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Babak Rahimi

Ph.D. (European University Institute)

Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Religion

Primary Office: LIT 324
Primary Phone: Contact Department
Quarterly Office Hours

Email: brahimi@ucsd.edu

Director: Third World Studies Program

Shi'i Islam; Medieval and (early) modern history, information communication technologies (ICTs), social media, public sphere, civil society, theories of modernity.

Babak Rahimi earned his PhD from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy (2004) and obtained an M.A. in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (1997). In 2000-2001, he was a Visiting Fellows at the Department of Anthropology, the London School of Economics and Political Science. His monograph, Theater-State and Formation of the Early Modern Public Sphere in Iran: Studies on Safavid Muharram Rituals, 1590-1641 C.E. (Brill 2011), traces the origins of the Iranian public sphere in the early-seventeenth century Safavid Empire with a focus on the relationship between state-building, urban space and ritual culture. Rahimi is also the co-editor (David Faris) of Social Media in Iran (SUNY Press 2015), an edited volume that explores the cultural and political impact of the Internet on Iranian society. His articles have appeared in Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology, International Political Science Review, International Communication Gazette, International Journal of Middle East Studies, The Middle East Journal, The Communication Review, and Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies. Rahimi has been an expert guest on various media programs like The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, BBC and CNN, in addition to NPR and On the Media. He has also been a visiting scholar at the Internet Institute, University of Oxford (2010) and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (2012). Rahimi was also a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC (2005-2006). Rahimi’s research interests concern the relationship between culture, religion and technology. The historical and social contexts that inspire his research range from early modern Islamicate societies to contemporary Iran.



  • Theater State and the Formation of Early Modern Public Sphere in Iran: Studies on Safavid Muharram Rituals, 1590-1641 C.D., Brill, 2011.

  • Co-edited with David Faris, Social Media and Iran, State University of New York Press, December 2015.

Selected articles

Communication and Media

  • “Rethinking Digital Technologies in the Middle East,” International Journal of the Middle East Studies, vol. 47, 2, 2015, pp. 362-365.

  • “The State of (digital) Exception: the case of Internet Censorship In Iran” State Power and Information Infrastructure. Muzammil M. Hussain and Philip Howard, editors, Ashgate, 2014.

  • “Satirical Cultures of Media Publics in Iran,” International Communication Gazette, vol. 77, no. 3, April 2015.

  • “The Agonistic Social Media: Cyberspace in the Formation of Dissent and Consolidation of State Power in Post-Election Iran,” The Communication Review  14:158-178, 2011.

 Culture and Sociology

  • “Subaltern Modernity: Mediated Experience, Ritualization and Becoming Modern in the Arab-Iranian Community of Bushehr,” Social Theory and Regional Studies in the Global Age, Said Arjomand, editor, Global/Local Studies, SUNY Press, 2014.

  • “Facebook Iran. The Carnivalesque Politics of Online Social Networking,” Sociologica: The Italian Journal of Sociology, A. Salvatore, editor, 5, 3: 2012


  • “Maydan Naqshe Jahan: Politics of Urban Design under Shah Abbas I,” in Courts and Performance, Maurice Pomerantz (ed), New York University Press, 2016.

  • “The Qajar Theater State: The Takiy-eh Dawlat of Tehran” in Performing the Iranian State, Anthem Press, Staci Scheiwiller, editor, 2013.

  • “Eating the Nahil: The Politics of the Ottoman Circumcision Ceremonies" in Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, Dana Sadji, editor, London: I.B. Tauris, March 2007.

Political Science

  • “Authority and Democracy in Shi‘i Islamic Jurisprudence: Montazeri, Sistani and Democratic Usulism” International Political Science Review, 2012.


  • “Exodus in Islam: Citatinality and Redemption,” Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience, Tom Levy, ed., Ashgate, 2015.

  • “Contentious Legacies of Ayatollah Khomeini,” Critical Introduction to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, editor, University of Cambridge Press, 2014.