Iran Colloquium

September 13, 2019

Amir A. Afkhami presents an overview of pandemic cholera’s seminal role in the emergence and development of modernity in Iran during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This includes details on cholera’s transformative impact on the country’s governance and perspectives on medicine, disease, and public health. It also sheds light on how cholera shaped Iran’s globalization and diplomacy and how it triggered revolutionary events such as the Tobacco Protest and the Constitutional Revolution. His presentation challenges the long held historical assumptions on the universal role of safe water and sanitation in ending the recurrence and severity of cholera and shape our discussion around what Iran’s historical experience with cholera can teach us about contemporary public health questions.
Speaker/Performer: Amir A. Afkhami, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Global Health, History Department of Psychiatry, George Washington University

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September 27, 2019

Narges Bajoghli is an award-winning anthropologist, filmmaker, and writer. Her academic research is at the intersections of media, power, and military in the Middle East. She is the author of Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic, and the director of the documentary film, The Skin that Burns, about survivors of chemical warfare in Iran. Narges’ research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, The Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and Brown University. In addition to her academic writing, Narges has also written for such publications as The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and Jacobin, and appeared as a commentator on Iranian politics on CNN, DemocracyNow!, NPR, BBC WorldService, BBC NewsHour, and PBS NewsHour as well as in Spanish on radio across Latin America.
Speaker/Performer: Narges Bajoghli, RAssistant Professor of Middle East Studies, SAIS Johns Hopkins University

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October 4, 2019

This talk, drawing upon extensive research at national archives and manuscript libraries in Iran and Turkey, explores the Sunni-Shia divergence in the early modern period, not merely as a religiously derived, but as a meticulously carried out geo-political and fiscal battle that shaped the Ottoman-Safavid relations profoundly. Prof. Baltacıoğlu-Brammer examines the formation of sectarian identities -both at the individual and state level- from an often neglected perspective, through the lens of the Qizilbash (“red heads” in Turkish), who constituted the largest Muslim “minority” group in the Ottoman Empire and were the principal catalyst for conflict between the Safavid and Ottoman Empires. She argues that the Qizilbash, as a major source of taxation, labor, and military recruitment for both empires, was a convincing force to dictate -directly and indirectly- the religious and political rhetoric of the era for almost two hundred years, between the 1460s and 1630s. It was during this period when these two mighty empires intensified their religious rhetoric utilizing heavily sectarian notions to demarcate the physical, as well as the religious, borders. At the same time, the Qizilbash adapted a multifarious set of actions to survive and strategically position itself in this environment, varying from simple conversions and reconversions to the practices of negotiation, as well as tax evasion, migration, and military engagement.
Speaker/Performer: Ayşe Baltacıoğlu-Brammer, Assistant Professor, Departments of History & MEIS, New York University

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October 11, 2019

In the early 20th century, the Iranian Jewish communities were mostly disenfranchised, marginalized, and impoverished. About 80 percent belonged to the lowest social and economic classes, 10 percent were part of the emerging middle class, and 10 percent counted among the country’s elites. Within three decades, that situation had changed. 10 percent were impoverished, 80 percent belonged to the middle classes, and 10 percent remained in the elite. By the 1979 revolution, Jews played a role in every Iranian political camp: as supporters of the monarchy or the revolutionary movements. This talk analyzes the institutional history of the Jewish communities in Iran—and the pivotal role they played in facilitating integration and other social developments. The examples to be discussed will help us understand how Iran’s Jews adjusted to a rapidly changing post-revolutionary society, especially in light of the regional conflict between their respective spiritual and national homelands, Israel and Iran. Through this discussion, we will examine the way we read and write the history of Iranian Jews.
Speaker/Performer:  Lior Sternfeld, assistant professor of history and Jewish Studies at Penn State

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October 24, 2019

Omid Safi is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. His research features both Sufism in the classical age and debates in contemporary Islamic thought. Omid is the editor of Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism. His Memories of Muhammad is an award-winning biography of the Prophet Muhammad. His most recent book is Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition, and was published by Yale University Press.
Speaker/Performer: Omid Safi, Duke University

November 7, 2019

Mahnaz Yousefzadeh is Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University, and affiliate professor at Italian Studies and NYU Abu Dhabi. She is the author of City and Nation in Italian Unification: National Festivals of Dante Alighieri (Palgrave, 2011), Florence’s Embassy to Sultan of Egypt (Palgrave, 2019), and several interdisciplinary articles on Medici Grand Dukes’ relations to Persia.
Speaker/Performer:  Mahnaz Yousefzadeh, New York University

November 18, 2019

Yann Richard, professeur émérite (emeritus professor), Sorbonne nouvelle, began as a student of Persian islamic philosophy and happened to be in Tehran before, during and after the 1979 Revolution. Since then he tried to understand why such a major crisis happened and made extensive research in the fields of sociology of Islam and modern Iranian history. In English his publications include a chapter in Nikki Keddie’s Modern Iran, Roots and Results of the Revolution (Yale University Press, 2003, initially published as Roots of Revolution, 1981); Shiite Islam: Polity, Ideology and Creed (Oxford - Cambridge Mass., Basil Blackwell, 1995).
Speaker/Performer:  Yann Richard, Emeritus professor, Sorbonne University