Abstracts and Bios

Culture and Cultural Production in Iran: Past and Present

A conference funded by the Honeyman Foundation, School of Modern Languages and Institute of Iranian Studies  

Abstracts and Bios

Listed alphabetically (presenters’ surnames)  

Shi’a Islamism and Iranian National Identity: In Morteza Avini’s War Documentaries//Kaveh Abbasian, PhD Candidate, Roehampton University of London

Shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the new Islamic rulers initiated a nation-wide campaign of purification of cinema, closing down cinema venues and banning a large number of cinema professionals from working. The state aimed for an independent domestic cinema with Islamic and educational content in service of reshaping the Iranian national identity. Soon many young non-professional Islamic revolutionaries started making their own state-funded ideological films.

Morteza Avini was one of these revolutionaries who managed to establish himself as the head of a group of young filmmakers making documentaries in the frontlines of Iran-Iraq war. In 1986 he was given the task of documenting the war both at the battlefront and behind the lines. The result was five series of newsreel style documentaries consisting of 63 episodes under one title, ‘The Chronicle of Triumph’, which continued to be broadcast on the national TV until the end of war in 1988. By developing his own specific film techniques and incorporating two of the most central Shi’a concepts, Avini managed to create one of the strongest propaganda tools in service of the hegemonisation of the Islamic Republic’s ideology and reshaping of the Iranian national identity. These two Shi’a concepts were first Martyrdom (Imam Hussein and Karbala) and second apocalypticism (re-emergence of the hidden Imam). In this paper, after briefly tracing back these two concepts to pre-Islamic Iranian mythologies and exploring the importance of them in the Islamic Republic’s nation building project, I will focus on their incorporation in Morteza Avini’s documentary series The Chronicle of Triumph. By using stills and footage from the series, I will show how and in what sense the two mentioned concepts were employed in order to create a strong propaganda war documentary series that later became an icon of Iranian Sacred Defence cinema.

Kaveh Abbasian is a PhD student in Film and Television studies at the Roehampton University of London (2014-Present). He has a BA degree in Cinema/Montage from the Tehran University of Art, and an MA in documentary practices from the Roehampton University of London in 2008. His practice based PhD research is titled Documentary films and national identity: Morteza Avini’s TV series ‘The Chronicle of Triumph’ and the use of state-funded war documentaries in reshaping Iranian national identity in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Apart from his academic duties, Kaveh Abbasian has been making documentary films on socio-political issues. His last documentary film, ‘Last Summer in Europe’, was a self-reflective film around the topic of political refugees in Europe. He is currently working on an essay documentary on the topic of memory and war.

Email Address: [email protected] / AHRC TECHNE Funded Doctoral Student at University of Roehampton, London/Webpage: http://www.techne.ac.uk/techne-members/techne-students/techne-students-2015/abbasian-kaveh


Exploring the Identity problem in Houshang Golshiri’s Prince Ehtejab// Bahar Abdi, Graduate Student, University of St Andrews

Prince Ehtejab, a novel by Houshang Golshiri, is about one of the last princes of the Qajar royal family who suffers from inherited tuberculosis. In the story, the prince, sitting on his ancestral chair, reconstructs the narrative of his identity by his journey through his memories in the last night of his life. According to Hegel, human biengs acquire ‘self-consciousness’ only when they come to ‘something that is not the self’.

This essay analyses how Prince Ehtejab identifies his own ‘self’ when he confronts ‘with his limitation’. However, he cannot discover the reality of his self because of two reasons. He is neither (being-for-self), nor is (being-for-others). To render Prince Ehtejab’s identity, Golshiri illustrates the memory of the protagonist and other characters from their glorious time to their decline. Re-collection and re-creation of the past in the prince’s mind is the main part of Prince Ehtejab’s narrative which is in the form of stream of consciousness. Through this narrative, the prince looks at himself both as a ‘self’ surrounded by limitations and as a ‘self’ that is to be seen by others.

Bahar Abdi has a BA degree in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Tehran and is currently a postgraduate student in the school of Modern languages, University of St Andrews. She taught Persian Literature at high schools in Iran for six years. She has also published poetry translations and essays in Iranian literary magazines.

Email: [email protected]


 Singing for the System, Singing in Dissent: The Politics of Madh in the Islamic Republic//Maryam Aras, PhD Student, Cologne University

Since the Safavid era, the ritual singing of Madh , Marsieh and Rouzeh has been a popular alternation in Iranian religious culture. The elegiac songs about the martyrdom of Hoseyn and his companions in Karbala and the stories about the Fourteen Infallibles aim to induce emotionality in the audience: “Maddahi is like a spice for religion. It draws religion out of its spiritlessness and helps it become emotional”, as Morteza Motahhari noted in his Hamasehe Hoseyni. Standing at the very bottom of the institutionalised Shia hierarchy, the Maddah merely used to be a lowpaid performer with a good singing voice for Ashura performances and obsequies. Only in the course of the 1978/79 revolution, the socio-political role of the Maddah as an agitator started to loom. Today Maddahan like Mahmood Karimi or Saeed Hadadian are somewhat “religious pop stars”, attracting huge audiences of young male Iranians. They make fortunes with their singing and are shaping the stateloyal attitude of the country’s political offspring through their religious cultural productions. The prosystem singers seem to dominate the scene: only a small number of Hey’ats patronise performances by more erfan driven or liberal Maddahan . In my presentation I will trace the rise of the Maddahan from their agitational functions for religious groups such as the Hey’ate Motalefeh during the 1970s, to their contributions to the “culture of holy defence” ( Farhange Defae Moqaddas ) in the Iran/Iraq War and and their performances in propaganda films like the Revayate Fath Series until the culmination of their role as a major cultural pillar of Khamene’i’s post-revolutionary Islamic Republic.

 Maryam Aras received her M.A. in Oriental Studies, Political Science and English and American Literature from Cologne University. In her dissertation she focuses on political and cultural functions of the ritual singers maddāhān in the Islamic Republic. Since her graduation Maryam also works as a freelance writer. She has taught and published on Iranian literature and film, gender and beauty, politics and religion in Iran and the Iranian diaspora. Beside her Ph.D. project she is currently working on a radio feature about the Munich based Iranian poet and former CISNU-activist SAID.

Email: [email protected]



Poems and Paintings as Public Ambiance for Discourse: Lingo-Visual Re-expression of the Poetry of Shafii Kadkani//Pari Azarm Motamedi, Artist and Scholar, Canada

The work of the contemporary Persian poet and scholar Mohammad Reza Shafii Kadkani has been recognized as a powerful poetic expression commenting, amongst other phenomena, on the historical and socio-political developments in Iran during the past several decades. Drawing from nature imagery and allusions to cultural and historical events, the poet has constructed a literary public ambiance that focuses on, and draws attention to, issues and discussions that could not be openly examined and expressed due to past and present limitations. The multi-layered prismatic nature of his poetry facilitates the portrayal of the historical and socio-political events, the interplay of influencing factors and their resulting ramifications on shaping of the recent history of Iran. As such, Shafii Kadkani’s poetry of the last several decades provides a poignant account of contemporary Iranian history.  Interpretation and re-expression of this poetry through other forms of art can enrich the experience of the audience, opening new approaches and vistas for engagement, experience and discourse. The poetry of Shafii Kadkani has been the focus of my visual art practice in the past decade.  Through English translation of his poems and creation of paintings inspired by them, I have attempted to express and convey my appreciation of this body of work to audiences both in Iran and beyond. In the proposed paper, I intend to demonstrate how an account of contemporary history of Iran has been related through poetry and how my depiction of that poetry in the visual language opens new areas of experience and discussion. Through the presentation of a number of paintings inspired by Shafii Kadkani’s poems and the reading of excerpts from my English translations of them, I attempt to convey to the audience my experience as a visual artist and translator of his poetry.

Pari Azarm Motamedi was born in Iran, received her M.A. in Architecture, Tehran University, 1968 and M. Sc. in Urban Development Planning, University College, London.  For more than 25 years, she has been painting and exhibiting in more than 30 exhibitions in major cities including New York, Washington, Vancouver and Tehran. Her work is focused on the interpretation of poetry and its expression in visual language. Hafez, Rumi, Sepehri, Akhavan Saless and Mohammad Reza Shafii Kadkani have inspired her work. She has devoted the last fifteen years to the study of poetry by Shafii Kadkani, and has created a collection of more than one hundred paintings and English translations of the poems, partly published in a bi-lingual edition, ‘In the Mirror of the Stream’ winning the Parvin Etesami prize for translation in 2009. Her theoretical interest is in the field of interpretation of poetry and its expression in paintings. Theoretical frameworks dealing with the process of reading and interpretation of works of art, the nature of meaning, the role of the reading subject, and the cultural historical influences in interpretation are of interest to her. She has conducted workshops and lectures at various institutions including Emily Carr and Simon Fraser universities in Vancouver, Canada. Her latest talk, ‘Prismatic Translation: A Lingo-visual Translation of the Poetry of Shafii Kadkani’ was presented in October 2015, at the annual conference of the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford.

Email: [email protected]             Webpage: www.pariazarm.com


“Islamic Architecture”: Fallacy or Reality?//Dariush Borbor (PhD)Architect, Urban Planner, Iranist//Director, Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS)

The terminology of “Islamic architecture”, does it convey a precise style, culture or religion? The origin of this misleading general designation is found in European scholarship, with eventual import into the Islamic world, rather than an all-pervasive stylistic or cultural reality.

Unlike the Roman Empire, the pioneering Muslims had no model of architecture ― in Iran they gathered and prayed in Zoroastrian centres of worship of Sasanian Architecture and culture. Unlike the terms “Christian”, “Jewish”, and “Buddhist” architecture or art which refer only to the religious art and architecture of these faiths, “Islamic architecture” and art is applied to all architectural and art forms produced in the Islamic World of the past fourteen hundred years, encompassing both secular and religious monuments of quite unconnected and often unrelated cultures. Further complications are encountered from the application of the term to works created by Muslim artists for other faiths, and works created by patrons of other faiths in Islamic lands. Even if we consider architectural elements, we do not come any nearer to any satisfactory result. In fact most of the so called “Islamic architecture”[2] and the related art forms are “neo-Sasanian” and direct or indirect results of the Iranian culture, spanning all the way from India to Spain, and many of the edifices had actual Iranian architects and artisans. The paper will argue and present illustrations which confirm that the widely used connotation of “Islamic architecture” by the laymen and the specialists, do not in fact designate either a specific building type, a particular architectural style, or a precise culture of diverse peoples across the world with dissimilar regional, historical, functional, cultural and religious practices. As a result we come to the conclusion that “Islamic architecture” is a fallacy that at the very best may be said of any building, style or culture in a time span of fourteen centuries with no affinity to either Islam or Islamic culture which is of great controversy in itself.

 Dariush Borbor was born on the 28th of April, 1934 in Tehran, Iran. He obtained a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Civic Design both from the University of Liverpool. He then went to specialize on architecture of hot dry regions at the University of Geneva under the eminent French architect, Professor Eugène Beaudouin. Concurrently he collaborated with the well-known Swiss urban planner Professor Arnold Hoechel and the distinguished architects Frei and Hunziker on several projects. In 1961, he returned to Iran as Deputy Technical Director of Iran-Rah Construction Co. In 1963, he set up his own architectural and urban planning office in Tehran. As President and Managing Director, he developed and expanded the firm to a large multidisciplinary office which included several in-house branches including architecture, planning, landscaping, structural, mechanical, environmental engineering, and interior design with a group of highly qualified multi-national staff and including branch offices in different parts of the country. At the same time, in the years 1973-79, he also collaborated with the Lausanne based international consultants Swiss Engineering Projects (SEP). In the years 1981-84, he became the President of Borbor International Management Consultants (B.I.M.C.) to Architects, Engineers, Planners, Paris, France. In 1984, he moved to Los Angeles, California where he was engaged in both architectural consultancy and research activity. From 1992 to present he has been the Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS), Tehran. He has won many architectural and urban design competitions and has been the recipient of several international prizes and awards worldwide, including the Gold Mercury from Italy and the 50 Outstanding Architects of the World Award from the 2nd Triennal of World Architecture held in Belgrade. He is considered as a pioneer of contemporary urban planning and design in Iran, described by some as “father of modern planning in Iran”. He helped to initiate the scientific process of development planning which included master plans of cities, regional plans, and a proposal for an overall environmental study for the whole of the country half a century ago. He has carried out more urban planning projects than any other of his Iranian colleagues. He has also been a leader in free flowing architectural forms and has exerted more influence on the twentieth century modern architecture of Iran than any of his other contemporaries. More than half a century after his first architectural work in Kerman, Iran his timeless designs still appear fresh and appealing.  Dariush Borbor who has been active in four continents, is a multifaceted practitioner and scholar who designs, paints and writes on architecture, urban planning, environment, history, linguistics and Iranian subjects. As a prolific writer and researcher, he has contributed to many distinguished international technical, scientific and academic publications, including several encyclopaedias such as the Encyclopedia of Urban Planning and the Encylopaedia Iranica.

Email: [email protected]


“Not for Motrebs”: Who owns ‘Morgh-e sahar’?[3]//Dr GJ Breyley, Research Fellow, Monash University

This paper addresses the conference’s questions around notions of ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ culture and spaces of cultural production through an analysis of the reception of various performances of the culturally and historically significant tasnif ‘Morgh-e Sahar’ (Neydavoud and Bahar). It focuses particularly on Googoosh’s 2015 version, which attracted widespread criticism and serves as a telling example of the problematics of diverse understandings of Farhang and perceived ‘ownership’ of certain Iranian cultural forms. The paper examines the ways in which ‘Morgh-e sahar’ simultaneously represents a kind of ‘high’ art and art ‘for the people’, as well as a quintessentially ‘Iranian’ piece of art with deep emotional significance for a broad range of listeners. What does it mean for this most significant tasnif to be ‘appropriated’ by a popular performer, in a space outside Iran that is associated with commercialism and economic, rather than artistic, elitism? How does the figure of Googoosh, whose own history is entwined with that of Iran in complex ways, affect the potential meanings of ‘Morgh-e sahar’? The paper considers these and related questions around notions of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ in Iran, as well as the significance of the visual, especially in the form of music videos, for shifting understandings of culture and cultural production in Iran and the Iranian diaspora.

 Dr GJ Breyley is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University, researching aspects of Iranian popular music history. With Sasan Fatemi she is co-author of Iranian Music and Popular Entertainment: From Motrebi to Losanjelesi and Beyond (Routledge, 2016).

Email: [email protected]


Modernity and Kurdish Literature// Marouf Cabi, PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

The second half of the nineteenth century signifies the start of a shift in Kurdish literature, which was almost exclusively represented in poetry, as the result of indirect contact with modern European ideas, with the effect that it increasingly became a social discourse. A central factor was the transformation of pre-modern power-relations between ‘autonomous’ Kurdish Emirates or Principalities and the encompassing Empires into a modern one, characterised by the demise of the Emirates on the one hand, and the emergence of centralised, modernising states on the other. This had at least two consequences for Kurdish literature: first, it was integrated into modern ideas, on nation and nationalism, ever since decisively effecting Kurdish cultural productions in general (e.g. Nowroz, Kurdish dress, dance and arts) and literary undertakings such as poetry and historiography in particular; and second, it meant that the existing power-relations determined the extent of nationalism and ‘modernism’ of prominent Kurdish literary figures in this literary transformation.

There are a number of scholarly works on Kurdish Literature in the nineteenth century and on the origins of Kurdish nationalism. I would like to contribute to such valuable works by shedding light on another aspect which deserves equal attention in order for us to provide a more comprehensive account of the transformation of Kurdish literature. It is the existing pre-modern power-relations (Empire-Emirate) as a factor which determined the ‘modernism’ of Kurdish literary figures, that is the extent they imbibed modern ideas and theories of the time such as positivism and social Darwinism; and the transformation of such power-relations into a modern one (centralised state-ethnic ‘minority’). In the end of this paper I hope we realise that while the new modern concepts of nation, education and progress became attractive, the environment different literary figures had come from also determined the extent of their modernism and nationalism. This becomes evident in comparing the ideological roots of the Young Turks’ intellectual figureheads such as Abdulla Cevdet, a medical doctor of Kurdish descent, and the extent of modern ideas’ influence in the poetry of Haji Qadir Koyi, a hojra educated, who epitomised the shift in Poetry upon his contact with modernity.

Marouf Cabi is a Ph.D. student in the School of History at the University of St Andrews, where he studies the concept and consequences of ‘modernisation’ in Kurdish-Iranian society. He holds a BA in History from Birkbeck Colege, London, an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS, and an M.Litt. in Iranian Studies from the University of St Andrews. His project is supervised by Professor Ali M. Ansari and Dr. Saeed Talajooy. His project is a critical analysis of the concept of modernisation and its consequences for Kurdish society in Iran. This includes Kurdish societies’ contact with modern European ideas in the end of the nineteenth century, as a result of which a process of redefining and refashioning of self began; and social transformation of Kurdish society in Iran under modernisation programmes in the modern nation-state.

Email: [email protected]


On the tensions of popular culture: the case of Tahmineh Milani//Taraneh Dadar (PhD), Queen Mary University of London

This paper proposes to explore the contradictions inherent in popular culture in Iran, through the prism of the “popular feminism” of the self-avowed feminist filmmaker Tahmineh Milani. Making films within the melodramatic and comic modes – Iran’s most popular generic  realms – Milani has been a major force behind the popularising of the woman question in Iranian mainstream cinema after the 1979 revolution, particularly during the reformist period (1997-2005). A self-avowed feminist – even though many of her critics question her feminist credentials- she has achieved considerable commercial success throughout her career. But despite her overt concern with women’s issues, many of the popular tropes of her films, do not challenge, but reinforce, the dominant social structures of which patriarchy is one.

I argue that Milani’s focus on the woman question, compared with her occasionally fearless tone, came to function as a “commercial strategy”, to borrow a phrase from Timothy Corrigan, gradually establishing her as a “star director” in Iranian cinema who built on her brand of popular feminism and her investment in popular modes. This brand has also attracted scholarly criticism, such as Hamid Dabashi’s critical remark that “Of course a Kiarostami or Panahi film cannot attract half as many people as a melodrama with perhaps a little bit of localised feminism thrown in for good measure.” (2007, p. 28)

This paper draws on Stuart Hall’s (1981) understanding of popular culture a site of struggle, and his refusal to see any cultural form as coherent and whole. Hall called for an appreciation of the essential contradictions in all cultural forms. Building on this, the paper aims to locate Milani’s “popular feminism” within the site of struggle that is Iranian popular culture.  Drawing on interviews with Milani, including personal interviews conducted in 2011 and 2015, I trace her declared dedication to a “socially committed” mainstream cinema with a strong focus on the woman question. The interviews are then set against the backdrop of close readings of two of Milani later films Ceasefire 1 (2006) and Ceasefire 2 (2014), which reveal that many of the popular tropes of her films do not challenge, but possibly also uphold the dominant structures of patriarchy in Iran.

References: 1. Dabashi, H. 2007. Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema. Mage Books. 2. Hall, S. 1981. Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular’. In: Samuel, R. ed. People’s History and Socialist Theory. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Taraneh Dadar received her PhD on gender and popular cinema in post-revolutionary Iran at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. She has taught courses in film and media studies at Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh Napier University, and has research interests in the wider Iranian media landscape, world cinemas, genre, gender and identity politics. She currently works as a media and communications professional and independent scholar.

Email: [email protected]


Challenges of Matching Two Cultures: Translating Measurement Units and Family Relationships into Persian//Mohammad Emami, (PhD),  University of Oxford

While translating texts between two languages, there are little noticed parameters which originate from cultural differences. Cultural presuppositions have the potential to make the translation extremely exotic in the eyes of ‎readers in the receptor culture. Presupposition relates to the linguistic and extra-linguistic knowledge the sender assumes the receiver to have or which are necessary in order to retrieve the sender’s message. It is therefore always possible that a culturally presupposed term causes confusion for its receiver in a different culture due to the divergence in cultural background between the TT and ST addressees. This paper intends to illustrate how the two cultural factors of ‘units of measurement’ and ‘family relationships’ can impact the translation process, and to elaborate on all possibilities available to translators, exemplified by cases identified in a corpus of more than 300 short stories translated from English to Persian. The systems discussed include the monetary system, system of measurement, grading system (educational qualifications) and the calendar system. A translator may also need to decide on how to render culture-specific family relationships. Some concepts are not applicable in the Iranian culture and may need some modification or explanation; while others require being more specific than in English and a conscious choice is therefore determinative. In general, there are three situations: (1) where a real-world system is referred to within the source culture but has no resonance in the target ‎culture; (2) where the target culture has given rise to greater ‎precision than is the norm in the source culture; and (3) where there is evidence of acculturation of the foreign element within Iranian culture. The translator’s main endeavour would then be to convey a meaning into a language which is not prepared to welcome it because of the cultural mind-set of its speakers.

Mohammad Emami holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of St Andrews, UK, and a Master’s in General Linguistics from the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Tehran. He started his educational career with a Bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, but after a few years of working in some industries, decided to follow his interests in literature and language. Combining his interests in Systemic Functional Grammar, literature, corpus linguistics, and translation studies, his doctoral thesis focused on the discovery of possible forces which might act in parallel to the translator and tacitly participate in the formation of inner-language elements of the translated text, concluding, amongst many, that there are no constraints beyond the translator’s reach ‎and no parameters which do not involve the translator. He currently works as the Persian Studies Coordinator at Wadham College, University of Oxford, where he is in charge of academic liaisons, maintenance and improvement of the Ferdowsi Library, a large collection of English and Persian books focused on Iran’s history and culture, as well as a valuable collection of Arabic, Persian and Armenian manuscripts.

E-mail: [email protected]


Surrealist Art in Iran as a Strategy for Avoiding Censorship//Dr Aida Foroutan, University of Manchester

This paper asks how Iranian artists have pushed the boundaries of their art in modernity.

Artistic development has been often born of necessity and practical considerations: the reciprocal relationship between the artist and the censor is of key importance. Specifically it is about the interplay between censor, artist and the mediating role of cultural taboos and norms in Iranian society. The discussion stems from my postdoctoral project on the subject of Surrealism and Censorship. Although the existence of censorship is officially denied in Iran, it operates under the euphemism of ‘guidance’ (ershād). I discuss actual examples of subjects that were taboo before the Revolution and became de rigueur after it, and vice versa. The dual theme of disguise and veiling plays a significant role in the development of Surrealism among writers and visual artists. This requires consideration of the differing attitudes towards women and the feminine in the pre- and post-Revolutionary period. If anything, Surrealism is defined by the art of subversion and the two terms are almost coterminous. Censorship and subversive art have constantly changing parameters according to political circumstances. Surrealism has been hybridised and indigenised in many cultures, but in a strongly censorious culture, such as that of Iran, Surrealism plays a particularly strong role in artists’ and writers’ strategies of censorship avoidance and evasion. State censorship produces the phenomenon of its evasion, specifically in the techniques used to circumvent it. Censorship has unwittingly, and in spite of itself, promoted artistic innovation. It is an unintended irony that the Iranian state authorities have nurtured the growth of artistic expression, as artists and writers need new ‘codes’ to outwit and out-manoeuver the censor. Surrealism in Iran is thus a graphic example of a phenomenon that occurs in other areas where culture is restricted and controlled by the authorities.

 Aida Foroutan was born in Tehran in 1976. As a child she lived through the Iranian Revolution, and witnessed the effects of its aftermath and the horrors of the 8-year Iran-Iraq War. She was trained as a painter and graduated from the Al-Zahra University of Tehran with a BSc in Industrial Design. She emigrated from Iran in 2000 and moved to Sweden where she worked in theatre as a choreographer and performer and exhibited her paintings in Sweden and Germany. In 2003 a book of her poetry, Forbidden Peace, was published in Stockholm. She also worked as Assistant Curator in Västmanland State Museum. She moved to the United Kingdom in 2007 to study for a Masters degree in Theatre Studies at the University of Manchester, after which she studied for a PhD in Art History there. Her doctoral thesis, which she completed in 2012, was on the reception of Surrealism in Iranian art and literature. She combines her life as a painter with her current position as Lecturer in Persian Literature at the University of Manchester. She has already published one article in the journal Iranian Studies and tendered one for publication in a conference edition of the same journal. She is currently revising her thesis for publication.

Email: [email protected]



Long Lasting Ancient Iranian Artistic Production: Original and Syncretistic aspects// Bruno Genito, Professor of Iranian and Art and Archaeology, Dipartimento Asia, Africa and Mediterraneo, Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”

Persian or Iranian art has one of the richest art heritages in the world history and has been strong in many media including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and sculpture. At different times, influences from the art of neighboring civilizations have been very important, and the Iranian Art was able to keep, nonetheless, always its original and autonomous character. From the Achaemenid Empire of 550 BC-330 BC for most of the time a large Iranian-speaking state has ruled over areas not completely similar to the modern boundaries of Iran and often much wider areas, sometimes called Greater or External Iran, it solicited a great process of cultural Persianization left enduring results even when the political dominion was interrupted. The courts of successive dynasties have generally led the style of Persian art, and court-sponsored art has left many of the most impressive survivals. In ancient times the surviving monuments of Persian art are notable for a tradition concentrating on a particular representation of the human figure (mostly male, and often royal) and animals. Persian art continued to place larger emphasis on figures than Islamic art from other areas, though for religious reasons now generally avoiding large examples, especially in sculpture.

Bruno Genito is a Professor of Iranian and Art and Archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” (2004-Present). He has held the following positions in the past: Professor of Central Asian Art and Archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” since 2012;  Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Uzbekistan of the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, Samarkand since 2008; Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Iran of the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Iranian Cultural, Tourism and Handicraft Organization (Isfahan, Sistan, Bishapur and Seymareh) (2003-2014); Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Hungary (1983-1997); Vice Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Turkmenistan (1989-1994);

Email: [email protected] ; [email protected] ; [email protected] ; [email protected]


 Poetics of Change: Modern Kurdish Poetry and the Question of Nationalism and Modernity//Farangis Ghaderi, PhD in Kurdish Studies, University of Exeter

The emergence of modern Kurdish poetry marks a period of great significance in the history of Kurdish literature since it witnessed the advent of modernity, the rise of Kurdish nationalism, the fall of the Persian and Ottoman Empires, and the creation of the ‘Middle East’ with significant political implications for Kurds. This paper aims to contextualize the emergence of modern Kurdish poetry and to elaborate on the discursive conditions which generated it. Examining the process of poetic change from the late nineteenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century I seek to reveal the drives and motivations for change. I argue that modern Kurdish poetry emerged as a response to the advent of modernity, and nationalism as its political implication. In the absence of Kurdish novels in the early twentieth century, modern poetry provided a space for discussing the new social and political ideas which challenged the traditional poetic conventions and resulted in significant changes in language. Furthermore, Kurdish nationalists employed poetry as an effective tool for disseminating and propagating nationalism and making nationalism intelligible to ordinary people which made the adoption of a simple language in poetry inevitable. This paper investigates the ways modernity and nationalism through challenging the worldview, the poetic conventions, and the language of the classical poetry engendered the poetic change and gave birth to modern Kurdish poetry.

 Farangis Ghaderi has recently completed her PhD in Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter. Her dissertation examines the development of modern Kurdish poetry from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. She has taught Kurdish and Persian languages at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. She received her BA and MA in English literature from Kurdistan University and Shahid Beheshti University, respectively. Her research interests are Kurdish classical and modern poetry, nationalism and modern Kurdish history.

Email: [email protected]


 Art and Persian Language Teaching// Mahbod Ghaffari, Teaching Associate, University of Cambridge

Language Teaching dates back to hundreds of year ago. However the systematic language education based on a complete course for learning a language started with Latin in the 17th century. Teaching Persian as a second or foreign language is relatively much younger than teaching a modern language.

For teaching English as the most widely taught modern language, education specialists, teachers, authors, publishers have introduced and implemented different methodologies and techniques through centuries and increasingly they have taken advantage of arts of different forms in their works. This can range from using texts about a particular kind of art to integrating images or visual arts (photos, painting, drawings, videos etc.) and songs to their educational resources or classrooms.

In this paper, I would like to discuss the status of art in Persian language teaching in two different ways. At first, I want to discuss how texts about arts are used in the Persian language course books or syllabus. In this case, if we consider literature (verse and prose) as a type of art, how it has been dealt with in the Persian language textbooks. In addition, I want to explore how far text adaptation is used in language teaching at different levels. This is of higher importance as Persian has a rich literature which is undoubtedly one of the strongest pillars of Iranian culture. The reason why many scholars and students show interest in learning Persian language is its literature through which they can understand Iranian culture and history better. Secondly, I want to show to what extend authors and teachers use arts as educational tools in teaching merely the language. In this section, the status of using images, songs, videos, films etc. will be studied.

Mahbod Ghaffari got his PhD in Linguistics and is Teaching Associate of Persian in the University of Cambridge since 2013. He started teaching at university as a lecturer in Iran, teaching linguistics, methodology, translation, Persian language and culture, etc. This continued for several years in the University of Allameh Tabatabaei and Shahid Beheshti University before moving to the UK. He continued working and researching on Persian Language in the UK and has been Persian Examiner for the University of Westminster before joining the department of Middle Eastern Studies in the University of Cambridge. He is the author of a number of Persian coursebooks, has written numerous articles on linguistics and teaching issues and involved in different online and multimedia projects of teaching Persian.

Email: [email protected]


Kurdish novel: From writing in Kurdish as a political act to aesthetic political writing//Kaveh Ghobadi, PhD in Kurdish Studies, University of Exeter

Due to the unprecedented ‘Persianization’ policies which coincided with the creation of modern Iran the first Iranian Kurdish novel was published outside Iran, in Baghdad, as late as 1961 and yet only established itself towards the end of the century. Within such acute socio-political context the very act of writing in Kurdish, regardless of its literary quality, was a remarkable achievement. This presentation explores the role of Kurdish novel in furthering the Kurdish cause from its emergence up until the second decade of the twenty first century. It also investigates the challenges of bridging politics and aesthetics in these novels.

This study demonstrates that the earlier Kurdish novelists from Iran opted to preserve and promote the Kurdish identity, culture, and language and were less concerned with the aesthetics. Their novels presented the characters who were in tune with their society and were guided by a predetermined and unquestionable duty to willingly sacrifice their lives for their homeland. However, before long a new generation of the novelists moved away from reducing literature to a sheer political and ideological medium. Towards the end of the 1990s a number of Kurdish novelists, who were frustrated with the failure of a severe decade of war with the central government, appealed to modernist and postmodernist modes of writing in order to portray a fragmented subjectivity in search of meaning and the lost values in a ‘morally bankrupted’ society. That said, they were as much concerned with the question of Kurdish identity as their predecessors were. But, they opted to bridge politics and aesthetics and abandoned the representation of naïve and one-dimensional protagonists who were national heroes and super-humans determined to free Kurdistan.

Kaveh Ghobadi received his PhD in Kurdish Studies in 2015 from University of Exeter. His PhD thesis examines subjectivity in contemporary Kurdish novels. He earned his BA and MA from Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran) in English Literature and Psychology, respectively. His research interests are identity, gender, and literature.

Email: [email protected]


Tehran’s genius loci in Iranian cinema//Dr. Maryam Ghorbankarimi, University of St Andrews

Films often provide a unique sense of the city, unavailable through other media. The relationship between cinema and the city can be examined in numerous ways. On one hand, film provides an urban archive that maps changes in the urban landscape; and on the other, film does not only capture the atmosphere of a place but it produces the city, both literally and imaginarily through the construction of fantasy urban spaces, ideas and ideals of the city.

The city, however, is not only what appears on the screen but it includes also the imaginary city created by cinema which is re-experienced in the private and public spaces of the city. Studying the relationship between cinema and the city as lived social realities is a growing field of study, especially with regards to thematic and formal representations of the city in recent years. Adopting the methodology of studies about the relation between cinema and cities such as New York and Tokyo, this paper will offer a preliminary reading of the relationship between Iranian cinema and the city of Tehran and its urban sphere by a close textual analysis of films such as Ten (2001), Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! (2007), and Taxi Tehran (2015).

Maryam Ghorbankarimi was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 2001 to continue her education in film at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She completed her PhD in film studies at the University of Edinburgh in November 2012, her dissertation was published into a book entitled “A Colourful Presence; An Analysis of the Evolution in the Representation of Women in Iranian Cinema since the 1990”. As well as a scholar Maryam is a filmmaker and have made some award winning short films in both formats of short documentary and fiction. These works have been shown in a number of international festivals, namely: Montreal International Film Festival, Beijing International Short Film Festival, and Tehran International Short Film Festival. She is also a film editor and recently edited an Iranian-Canadian feature length film entitled “The Desert Fish”. Her wider research interests include the concept of third cinema and different national cinemas and transnational cinemas and cultures. Her current research is mostly on world cinema subjects and representation of sexuality and women in Middle Eastern cinema specifically.

Email: [email protected]


 The coded language and the critical content of fiction in contemporary Iran//Saeid Hooshangi, Professor of Iranian Studies (Complutense University of Madrid-Spain).

This article aims to present and make a general comparison of the literary works that have used a coded language and symbols and how that has changed the appearance and the identification of those works in the last thirty years. Certainly the use of this coded language is a feature product of the sociopolitical events that has contributted to the criticism of writers. Although the use of that kind of language and that symbolism has resulted in a surreal expression that unfortunately has been poorly treated in analytical discussions. The period since the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 did produce the translation of many foreign literature works, as well as the creation of works that aimed to promote an atmosphere of freedom and encourage the emergence of a new wave of intellectuals. After the Revolution of 1979 and its consequences such as the war and the socio-political repression, the literary works, mainly fiction and poetry, even in its simplest expression, have followed the same path of the post-constitutional literature and make a great effort to stay out of the literary established rules of that time. Literary works that initially were about war, poverty, discrimination and criticism of the previous regime and sometimes emigration and lyric, have extended their subject and defied the rules of thought and the stereotypes established in recent years which has forced the language to be coded and the works to be surreal.

Iran, contemporary literature, Surrealism, coded language.

Saeid Hooshangi (Iran 1966) has a BA and a MA in Persian philology and literature and a PhD at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. His work is devoted to Iranian language, literature and preislamic religions. He works as a Persian language and literature professor at the Univesidad Complutense de Madrid. He is the author of some books such as Lengua Persa I (Persian Language I), Persa para Españoles (Persian for Spaniards), Gramática Persa (Persian Grammar), Español para Iraníes (Spanish for Iranians), Léxico para Situaciones Español/Persa (Vocabulary for Situations Spanish/Persian), Esquemas Gramaticales de Persa (Persian Grammar Schemes), Cuentos Persas (Persian Tales), Manual Práctico de Persa (Persian Language Handbook), Persa para Españoles (Persian for Spaniards), as well as Destino Desértico a bilingual (Persian-Spanish) poetry book.

Email: [email protected]


 An Irigarayian Reading of Ethical Subjectivity in the Poetry of Iranian Women from the Constitutional Era to the End of the Pahlavi Period//Mahrokh Hosseini, PhD candidate, Gender Studies, University of Sussex

This paper will depict how Iranian female poets in the Constitutional and Pahlavi period started to propose a new image of Iranian women, that was in contrary to classical literature. More explicitly, how their poetic voice is assertive in resistance to the male dominated society. Luce Irigaray’s deconstructive method can be used as a means to explore the way in which women delivered a subversive discourse of gender relations in Iran and this paper will offer the first and second phase of this purpose which is self-awareness and the education of women. After discussing the connection between Irigaray’s oeuvre and Iranian women’s poetry, the representation of women and their gender identity in Persian traditional literature will be elaborated upon. This will help in understanding why the search for recognition and self-awareness in women’s poetry in the Constitutional and the Pahlavi Period depended mainly upon the poets’ consideration of the concept of modesty (sharm). By considering the impact of the concept of modesty in producing women’s poetry in Iran, an Irigarian reading of the selected poets of the Constitutional and Pahlavi period, Zhale (Alam-Taj Ghaem Maghami), Parvin Etesami and Forough Farrokhzad, will be evaluated. It will be argued how the poets continued their critical approach similar to Irigaray’s second phase of the oeuvre, in their poetry in search of the ways of recognition of the female subject. In other words, it will be analysed how in the second phase, poets attempt to cultivate and embody the female subject and simultaneously shift to returning to ‘the reality of two’ more openly without considering the norms of the power authorities

Mahrokh Hosseini is a PhD candidate (3rd year) in Gender Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. In my research, I study the question of the ethical subjectivity (diagolism) in the work of Iranian female poets, whose poems, I believe, are enclosed with dialogical elements and ethical tones. I show how the concept of  “the Dialogic subjectivity” acknowledges ethical questions in their poetry, e.g. the importance of situating oneself in the other’s stance, the challenging of the binary oppositions, the responsibility towards the other and the interpretation of the relations.

Email: [email protected]


 Cinema and the Negotiation of Modernity in Iran//Parviz Jahed, (film critic, journalist, filmmaker), PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

In this paper, I situate Iranian cinema in the broader context of modernity and the socio-political struggles that have characterized twentieth-century Iranian history. The Constitutional Revolution and Modernity Movement commenced close on the heels of the debut of cinema in Iran. In fact, cinema appeared in Iran concurrent with the rise of modern thought, so much so that the fate of cinema has been somewhat linked to the historic fate of modernity. Actually, the Iranian cinema and its critical discourses have in different periods reflected discourses prevailing among contemporary Iranian intellectuals and thinkers. In this paper I will examine the development of Iranian cinema since its debut, the challenges that have faced the cinema from official political, traditional and religious institutions, and the Iranian filmmakers’ efforts to legitimize this cinema. I argue that the cinema as a modern phenomenon, and with its association with the West and foreign ideas, has always had a rebellious and subversive connotation in Iran’s society.  I will try to draw a picture of the cultural configuration of the Iran’s society in the reign of Pahlavi dynasty when a new era in the history of modern Iran is being commenced.

The cultural situation of Iran’s society was a determining and contributing factor in shaping up Iranian cinema in general and Iranian New Wave in particular. It is a fact that the cultural situation in Iran was influenced by social, political and economic factors. In order to find out that how the political and social conditions of Iran in 50s and 60s paved the ground for the emergence of a group of young intellectual filmmakers with the progressive ideas, it is essential to locate Iranian Cinema within the political and cultural context of Iran’s society in those decades. For this reason, I examine the political and social conditions of Iran after the American-British engineered coup (1953) that led to consolidation of Mohammad Reza Shah’s regime and a monarchic despotism, a period of brutal dictatorship that plagued Iranian intellectual and artistic life. Then, the attribution of the third generation of Iranian intellectuals toward modernity and the forced modernization of the Shah will be discussed. Furthermore I explain how the world of poetry and fiction in Iran at that time was productive and could articulate the soul of modernity whereas cinema was completely passive and failed to take a significantly role in the project of modernity.

Parviz Jahed is a film critic, journalist, filmmaker and lecturer in film studies, scriptwriting and film directing. He is the editor-in-chief of Cine-Eye (Cinema-Cheshm), a film journal focused on world cinema and independent films publishing in the UK. Jahed is also the editor of The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2011). His book, Writing with a Camera (Nevashtan ba Dourbin), an in-depth interview with Ebrahim Golestan the veteran Iranian filmmaker and writer has been published in Iran in 2005. He has guest-edited a special issue of Film International journal focused on Iranian independent cinema (Intellect, January 2015). Jahed’s areas of research interest include Iranian Cinema (especially the new wave Iranian cinema and Filmfarsi), world cinema, French New Wave, and the history of film style and film theories. He also made a number of documentaries and short films including: Maria:24 hour peace picket, Ta’zieh,Another Naration, The Grass, The Lark, Day-break, Coffee-Cup Reading, Solayman Minassian:A Man With a Movie Camera and Bonjour Monsieur Ghaffari.  Jahed has recently been working on his research project on the origins of the new wave in Iranian cinema at the University of St Andrews.

Email: [email protected]


 Chār- tāghi: one form and multiple readings of the past//Niloofar Kakhi, (PhD), Research Associate, University of St Andrews

‘Chār- tāghi, which is the only structure, representative of religious architecture in ancient Iran and the true specimen of national buildings, the one that emanated from Zoroastrian religion, have always been the symbol of the followers of Ahoura Mazda. But this Chār- tāghi later served another religion. […] In the 6th AH Iran managed to construct mosques that are original to this land and that was exactly the same ancient fire temples which were built in the form of Chār- tāghi. Iran managed to adapt it to the Islamic world. [1]

In 1936 when Andre Godard published the first volume of Athar-e Iran, he recognised the powerful significance of Chār- tāghi as an enduring architectural element which succeeded in the transmission of pre-Islamic Iranian architecture heritage to the architectural needs of Islam as the new religion and the creation of a distinctive characteristic for Islamic architecture in Iran. Hence, for the rest of Pahlavi monarchy it served as a representation of pre-Islamic heritage Yet, perhaps it was too soon to predict an ideological revolution of some forty years later and see how once again Chār- tāghi succeeds to demonstrate its resilience within the architectural discipline as the representation of the newly re-defined official national narrative.

By giving a review of the different interpretation of Chār- tāghi in the architectural discipline, history, design and governmental design instructions in Iran from the 1930s to the present, this paper will introduce Chār- tāghi as one of the main architectural elements that has been used for the propagation of the official definitions of national identity during both Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic regimes.

[1] Godard, A., Godard, Y. and Siroux, M.(1936) Athār-é Īrān: annales du service archéologique de l’Īrān. Paris: P. Geuthner.

Niloofar Kakhi started architectural studies in 2002 in Iran, where she particularly became interested in history of the discipline. In 2009 she received her MA in Histories and Theories of Architecture from Architectural Association School of Architecture, where she also received her PhD in 2015, investigating the relationship between the politics of nationalism and modern architectural practices in Iran. Niloofar has worked as an architect and consultant in Iran since 2007, and taught histories and theories, and design in Iran and the UK. She is currently a visiting scholar at the University of St Andrews.

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Embodying the Spirit of Persian Literature: The Rise of Tehran University’s Faculty of Literature and the Human Sciences// Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Professor of Persian and Comparative Literature, University of Maryland

In a most famous line, the fourteenth-century Persian lyricist Hafez ventures the idea that should The Holy Spirit (Ruh ol-Qodos) lend a helping hand, others too will perform miracles of emanation such as Jesus of Nazareth was known for.  Some six centuries after him, in a daring adventure of cultural emanation (fayazaan), an institution was set up in Tehran that would in time become the mother and model for the study of the humanities in modern Iran in more or less the same way that this was done, say, in France or England.  Daneshkadeh-ye Adabiyyat va Olum-e Ensani (Faculty of Literature and the Human Sciences), established as an integral part of the founding of Tehran University, quickly turned into a new secular shrine tasked not only to examine the life and fortunes of Persian literature, but also to proclaim to the world all the glory accrued to this marvellous aesthetic tradition and, in the process, to appropriate as much of it as possible in the name of the modern country of Iran.  And thus it was that the solitary art that someone like Hafez was practicing, perhaps seated alone in a secluded corner of his Shiraz dwelling, became part and parcel of a “scientific” pursuit and, at the same time, a most brilliant sign of Iran’s great and glorious literary past and a grand national undertaking to display its power of perpetual effulgence. My address will explore the history of the academic study of Persian literature in search of the shape, scope and ultimate meaning of this crucial enterprise.

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak was professor of Persian language and literature and Iranian culture and civilization at the University of Washington. He has studied in Iran and the United States, receiving his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Rutgers University in 1979, and has taught English and comparative literature and translation studies, as well as classical and modern Persian literature at the University of Tehran, Rutgers University, Columbia University, and the University of Texas. Professor Karimi-Hakkak is the author of 19 books and over 100 major scholarly articles. He has contributed articles on Iran and Persian literature to many reference works, including The Encyclopedia Britannica, The Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. His works have been translated into French, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Greek, Arabic, Japanese, and Persian. He has won numerous awards and honors, and has served as president of the International Society for Iranian Studies and several other professional academic organizations.

Email: [email protected]


 The Object-Voice: The Acousmatic Voice in the New Iranian Cinema// Farshid Kazemi, PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh

Though the gaze has been discussed to some extent in the scholarly literature on Iranian cinema, the voice, on the contrary, has not received the attention that it rightly merits. In this article, I will theorize the deployment of the voice in post-revolutionary Iranian cinema, especially what the French film theorist Michel Chion calls, acousmêtre or the acousmatic voice, namely the disembodied voice. The voice without a body, or the acousmatic voice, in which the voice of a character is off screen and detached from a particular body, is often operative within post-revolutionary Iranian cinema as a way to circumvent the restrictions on staging bodies (both male and female bodies) in intimate or erotic configurations. This phantom like voice without a body, like a spectral presence, haunts the entire landscape of post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. I will look at two instances in which the acousamtic voice is deployed as a way to subvert the logic of veiling the female voice through the acousmatization of the male voice, focusing on two films, namely Rakhshan Banietemad’s The May Lady (Banu-ye Ordibehesht, 1997) and Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Gabbeh (1996). The instances of the voice in these films represent a feminist move and a counter ideological gesture since what is rendered acousmatic in these two films is the male voice rather than the female voice. This male voice without a body or acousmatic voice, acts to subvert the logic of veiling the female voice, since representing the male voice without a body, critiques the foregrounding of the male subject as the privileged site of subjectivity in the Islamic Republic. In this way, the acousmatic voice foregrounds female desire rather than male desire, whilst simultaneously drawing out the erotic potential of the male voice. Relating Chion’s concept of acoustomer with that of Lacan’s notion of the voice as objet petit a, it will be seen that the voice acts as a signifier of desire and becomes a love-object, since male or female bodies cannot be displayed erotically on the screen. Thus, in the New Iranian Cinema the acousmatic voice fills in the erotic void created by the censors.

Farshid Kazemi is a Ph.D. candidate in the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department at the University of Edinburgh. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of British Columbia. His dissertation project focuses on questions of gender, sexuality and desire in Post-revolutionary Iranian Cinema.

Email: [email protected]


 Narrating Identity in the House of Language: Hushang Golshiri’s Ayneha-ye Dardar/Shuttered Mirrors (1992) //Fatemeh Khansalar, Graduate student, University of St Andrews

Shuttered Mirrors (1992), similar to other Golshiri’s works, focuses on personal life, history, and identity. In this work, however, the role of the character’s language and imagination is more remarkable in illustrating the identity of Golshiri’s main character, who is a writer himself. For this character, language works in a twofold ways: a hiding place to refuge to from the harsh world surrounding him and the history of failures dominating his life, and a resource for re-creating a reasonable relationship with his culture and history. Therefore, he continuously imagines and reconstructs his personal past as well as imaginary future to provide a subjective historical account of his identity development.

By creating this character, Golshiri intends to raise the question of identity and explores it by revising, re-evaluating, inventing, and reconstructing narrative of his character’s life and history. The character’s internal story is told to define him and map his life among others. In the novel, however, his character is in Europe to read his short stories in public events; therefore, his life story mixes with his own short stories and makes his narrative identity more sophisticated. This paper will trace how he creates and re-creates a continuous narrative identity through a mixture of his stories and his memories of his past life, with a view on his present and imaginary future. I investigate the way that the ‘I’ of the character, the storyteller, faces his self as an author of his own narrative identity, and the way that he tries to choose events and re-arrange them in order to achieve meaning and value in his review of his life.

Fatemeh Khansalar was born in Shiraz and holds a BSc in Botany from the University of Isfahan. She currently studies towards an M. Litt. in Middle Eastern Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of St Andrews, following her interests in literature and fiction that goes back to her time at high school.  In 1999, she joined Rooyesh Institute of Art, Culture and Foreign Languages as deputy-manager, an appointment that continued for 10 years. While in the post, she ran several art exhibitions, conferences and seminars, including the first-ever conference on ‘Naghashan-e Gha-hveh-Khanei’, or ‘Iranian Cafe-house Painting’. In 1999, she was invited to join the editorial board of Zendeh-rood, a prestigious quarterly literary magazine in Iran, where she is still a member. She has also served as the production manager and a member of the editorial board of Mehraveh magazine, another quarterly periodical in art and literature, from 2003 to 2009. She has published a collection of short stories in 2002, and also several short stories and literary articles in Zendeh-rood, Asr-e Panjshanbeh, and Mehraveh periodicals. After moving to Scotland in 2009, she has run a workshop for Persian miniature painting on a weekly basis. She is currently working on her dissertation which focuses on the works of Houshang Golshiri, as well as on her second short story collection which is soon to be published.

Email: [email protected]


 Lalehzar: What It Was and What It Became//Jane Lewisohn (PhD), Research Associate Music, SOAS, University of London

During the early to late 20th centuries (up until the 1979 revolution) Lālehzār figured as one of the most iconic and important neighbourhoods of Tehran. One might say that the Lālehzār district was Iran’s avenue to the modern world. During this period, Lālehzār incarnated everything that Iran as a modern, developing country aspired to represent in terms of ‘high’ cultural life — in the way of theatres, print journalism, cinemas, cabarets, cafes, as well as the best and the worst that Western consumer culture had to offer the new, modern nation of Iran. I will give you an overview of how the Lālehzār district became the centre and epitome of all things modern, in terms of culture, politics, art and commerce.  I endeavour to explain how and why it declined into a neighbourhood for working men’s’ entertainment, and finally—as of today in the Islamic Republic—into simply a centre for wholesale electrical goods.

Jane Lewisohn, Director of the Golha Project (WWW.Golha.co.uk) and the Golistan Project (WWW.Golistan.org), which are dedicated to preserving and archiving the Performance Arts and Literature of Iran, is a Research Associate in the Department of Music, SOAS, University of London.

[email protected]

The Golistan Project




In Search of Abstraction in the Safavid Adaptations of Chinese Blue-and-white Porcelain//Amelia Macioszek – PhD candidate; Free University Berlin, Germany

Growing demand for adaptations made Persian potters enhance their skills and improve clay quality to compete with the Chinese porcelain they admired so greatly. Persian artists during the Safavid period adapted blue-and-white porcelain with great attention to details.  However, their intention was not to copy slavishly, but change Chinese decorative motifs in such a way that they would be resembling the sources more or less closely. The beginning of Safavid period was dominated by rather close representations and the end by less similar ones when European art began to influence Persian. However, it was not always like that and there are some astonishing, almost abstract in form, motifs appearing throughout both earlier and later years. All of them are characterized by incredible freedom in treating the Chinese motifs as mysterious seeds with potential to grow and expand to unusual forms. Even though throughout the acts of appropriation and adaptation Chinese decorations underwent drastic changes, one thing remained common for all of them – they flourished and grew into new amazing abstract selves. In other words, Persian soil during the Safavid period proved to be a good place for evolution of Chinese designs and constant winds of negotiation between being faithful to the native spirit or following the sublime foreign stimuli had never been so fruitful. Finding Chinese sources of these fully developed and independent abstract formations as well as presenting their intermediate forms is the main aim of the proposed presentation.

Amelia Macioszek studied Sinology at the University of Warsaw in Poland and completed her MA research on Chinese celadons and their imitations in the other parts of the world in 2008. Currently is a PhD candidate at East Asian Art History Department at the Free University in Berlin finishing her dissertation on Safavid adaptations of Chinese kraak porcelain dishes. In 2012 was awarded Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation scholarship during which she studied the collections of the East Asian Art Museum and Islamic Art Museum in Berlin.

Email: [email protected]



The Patronage Mode of Literary Production in Medieval Iran; A Historical Overview//Salour Evaz Malayeri, PhD Candidate in Modern Languages, University of St Andrews- School of Modern Languages

The subject of literary mode of production is one of the most important areas of discussion in the fields of cultural materialism and sociology of literature. However, it has been the least debated issue in the studies regarding the Persian classical literature. Although there have been some inspiring attempts focusing on the issue of court poetry, no critical discussion has been made by scholars as to the relation between the political power and cultural production with regards to different historical periods.

Putting the material condition of literary production in its historic context, the analysis of literary mode of production employs almost the main topics of cultural materialist approach such as the social origins of literary production, the function of literature as a socio-political institution, and the role of literary production with regards to other aspects of socio-political life, such as ideology (political legitimation), social resistance and aesthetic theories. This paper, while considers itself indebted to the recent historical and literary studies about the role of Persian courts in developing the Persian literature and language, seeks to analyse the subject based on the social relations which are at work throughout the process of literary production. The question that ‘how’, ‘by whom’ and in what ‘socio-political circumstances’ was a literary work produced, in fact, has a great impact on the form and content of literary text, as well as on the ways of its reception and consumption. That is why, this paper tries to analyse the significant role of patronage system within the state for literary production in the medieval period, particularly in terms of material forces provided or supported by the court and the social relations that emerge from such mode of production. To this end, the discussion will be supported by some literary examples, representatives of specific socio-political condition of literary production. This paper also aspires to find a reciprocal relation between the state and the writers in different historical periods who were under the patronage of the court. Such inter-relationship between literature and state would enable us to follow the political impact of literary production and its role on maintaining the cultural identity in Iran, while acting as a major device of legitimacy and ideological order.

To examine these topics in a more concrete ground, I will divide my discussion into three historical parts: First, after giving a brief discussion as to the main subjects of analysing the ‘literary mode of production’ in Marxist literary criticism, I will introduce the main features of Patronage mode of production in Persia, with more focus on the pre-Islamic period. Then, on the second part, I will try to explain the revival of Persian language and literature after the establishment of Persian local states in the Islamic period, with more focus on the reciprocal relationship between literature and the political power. In the third part, my discussion will be on the changes and differences occurred in the patronage mode of production during the Turkic and Mongol states. At the end, my paper concludes by emphasising on the fact that the nature and function of literary production inside the court, to a high degree, is related to the political status of the state, its power of authority, as well as its ethnic and social background.

Salour graduated with an MA in Persian literature and language from Azad University of Tehran in 2011. He did his thesis on the relationship between Ideology and Literature in Persian Medieval poetry through analysing the odes of Naser-e Khosrow and Sa’edi’s first chapter of Boustan, which earned him a first-class grade. He has attended numerous series of masterclasses about modern literary theory and criticism in Tehran and published a number of essays on cultural production in Iran, as well as film and book reviews in Iranian journals. Salour’s PhD thesis focuses on Persian classical literature between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. By analysing texts from different discursive contexts, his research shows how literary texts as a reflection of social life and power relations, represents different forms of cultural resistance.

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Historicizing Ibtizal as a Counter-Aesthetics Corporeal Criterion//Ida Meftahi (PhD), Visiting Assistant Professor in Contemporary Iranian Culture and Society Roshan Institute for Persian Studies, University of Maryland

 Relatively understudied and prevalently deployed in the cultural discourse of contemporary Iran, the term “degenerate” (mubtazal) has historically been used to devalue and dismiss a range of arts, most of which belong to the realm of popular culture. While in the leftist discourse the term contrasted the valorized politically conscious “committed” (muti‘ahhid), in other contexts degenerate connoted a lack of artistic quality and tastelessness. When applied specifically to performing bodies (performance in its broad sense), the term degenerate incarnated certain types of corporeal qualities, gender performativity, and affect. The term was especially prevalent in the art discourse of the Tudeh Party’s, Iran’s major Marxist organization, which during its heydays in the 1940s,  heavily invested in culture and arts as the media of politics. Engaging major literary and artistic figures of the era, the cultural ventures of the party involved producing a number of publications on the topic, and a range of performative forms including theatre, music, and choreographed political demonstrations those of which have greatly shaped Iranian cultural thought and performative politics to this day.

Focusing on the gendered and corporeal aspects of the term “degeneration” (ibtizal) and its binary oppositions “committed” and/or “artistic,” this paper aims to historicize and  unpack these terms in the Tudeh Party’s discourse on arts and public performative politics, such as performing and visual arts, political demonstrations and meetings, celebrations, speeches, political behavior, and anthems. My primary sources for this study include documents and periodicals of the Tudeh Party as well as those belonging to the embassy and consulate of the Soviet Union, and organizations with strong ties to it, such as VOKS, and memoirs of members of the Tudeh Party. An in-depth analysis of these notions and the moral and aesthetic qualities they entail is critically important for understanding contemporary Iranian arts, cultural criticism, and public political performance.

Ida Meftahi currently holds a Visiting Assistant Professorship in contemporary Iranian culture and society at the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies, University of Maryland. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. Her first book, Gender and Dance in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage is scheduled for release in Spring 2016 (Routledge Iranian Studies Series). Offering a novel approach to corporeality in twentieth-century Iran, Dr. Meftahi’s historical research intersects with studies of gender, urbanism, performance, cinema, and political economy of public entertainment. In addition to teaching interdisciplinary courses on Modern Iran, she is the director of the Lalehzar Digital Project, a component of the Roshan Initiative for Digital Humanities, as well as faculty advisor for Roshangar: Roshan Undergraduate Journal for Persian Studies.

Email: [email protected]


Poetry and Performance in Contemporary Tehran//Pardis Minuchehr (George Washington University)

In the past two decades, Persian poetry manifests itself as one of the most actively practiced art forms in Iran.  Poetry is presented not only in private and public readings, but is printed on hundreds of blogs and websites (outnumbering social and political blogs).  In terms of content, the socially charged poetry prevails in attracting the attention of an audience otherwise constrained by expressing their views openly in other forms.  While in terms of style, most of this poetry follows the conventions of Persian “Aruz” (prosody) or free verse, there is an emerging movement that marries poetry with performance, in an interactive way. In this presentation, I will examine the contemporary interactive performances of poetry, as performed in the underground cultural scene of Iranian artists in Tehran today.  My research is based on my recent participation in the interactive poetry in performance by Persian poets and performers, more specifically the works of Mohammad Azarm and Solmaz Naraghi.  This emerging art form, in my view, forges a source of strength, community and inspiration for intellectual development, which requires further study.  I will also investigate the interactive nature of this new artistic movement, which no longer requires the audience to sit and listen, rather invites them to take part in the process of creation.  Thus, this presentation will shed light on a form of art that aspires to be a source of social awareness and change in contemporary Tehran.

Pardis Minuchehr (PhD) is assistant Professor of Persian language, literature and film at George Washington University, and directs the Persian program there in Washington, DC.  Her current research focuses on the performance genre as well as the creation motif in Persian literature, from medieval to modern times.  She holds a Ph.D, from Columbia University, and taught for eight years at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a Fulbright fellow at the Free University of Berlin.”

Email: [email protected] / [email protected]


“Other City” A Study of the representation of Tehran in  “The Contemporary Iranian Photography”//Mohammadreza Mirzaei, Independent scholar and visual artist, Iran

With a population of more than 8 million people, Tehran is the most important center of the social, political and cultural events in Iran. In the recent years, Iranian photographers have became aware of the importance of Tehran and have dedicated their projects to documenting and exploring it. When looking at mainstream of Iranian photography, it is important to note the disconnection between these photos and the reality of Tehran. To be more precise, many contemporary Iranian photographers have hidden a part of Tehran’s hectic reality. They have transformed a noisy, messy Tehran to a silent, abandoned, and frightened city, often using specific strategies like the long exposure time, covering a part of lens, or using expired photographic materials. For example in the exhibition “Tehran, Undated”, Mehran Mohajer made a ghost city from the identifiable streets of Tehran by using a pinhole camera and a long exposing time. It is important to consider that these photos were exhibited after the 2009 election protests, which was crucial to creating a new sociopolitical context for them. As a result some people have interpreted these photos as the point of view of protesters who were hiding in the streets. After critical success of Mohajer, young photographers like Mohammad Ghazali, Sasan Abri and Ehsan Barati dedicated their projects to Tehran while still escaping from the reality of life in the city. Many of them add layers of political context to their works through titles and statements. Studying these series by contemporary Iranian photographers, this research investigates recent representations of Tehran and questions the sociopolitical potential of one branch of Iranian art.

Mohammadreza Mirzaei is a visual artist, writer and independent scholar based in Tehran. He was the founder and the editor of Dide Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to contemporary Iranian photography and served as guest editor and writer for different local and international publications like Herfeh: Honarmand Quarterly Magazine and Landscape Stories. Mirzaei received an MFA degree in Fine Arts from University of Pennsylvania and is now teaching photography and art history at Professional Photography Institute in Tehran.

Email: [email protected]


The Image of Female Performers in Iran: Past and Present//Parmis Mozafari (PhD), Research Fellow, University of St Andrews

 Despite the significant roles that female performers have played in the musical culture of Iran, their presence in public and private spaces has always been a matter of cultural, moral and religious controversy. The paper explores the depiction of female performers in literary and visual works to identify their social status in the course of history. It tries to trace  the history of bans and restrictions imposed on female performers, and identify the reasons behind the large-scale bans imposed on Iranian music after the 1979 revolution.

Parmis Mozafari studied Persian classical music in Iran and received her PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Leeds in 2011. Her current research is focused on female performers in modern and pre-modern Iran and the transformation of gender roles in contemporary Iranian music culture. She had published two book chapters on dance and on female singers, and is currently working on her monograph on female musicians in contemporary Iran.

Email: [email protected]


Telling the stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ in Iranian primary schools// Monireh Partovi (PhD), Research Associate, University of Cambridge

The following paper reflects the voices of 9 to 10 year-old primary school children in Iran. The findings were collected from 81 Iranian pupils within five single-sex primary classrooms. No previous research has been done on ‘pupil voice’ emphasizing children’s right to have a say about different matters in their school lives in Iran.

In order to nurture the rights of pupils to have a say, two methods of data collection were applied: participant observation and individual semi-structured interviews. As a participant observer, I facilitated six hours of workshops with each classroom adopting the ‘community of inquiry’ as my pedagogical method. In this study, the selected stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ was used as a ‘springboard or trigger’ for facilitating the classroom inquiry.

The findings suggest that the stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ may enable children’s voice in four ways. First, stories engaged children in discussion on topical issues that matter to them. Second, they opened up spaces for imaginative journeys and helped children to ‘go visiting’ different views of story characters. Third, these stories contain astonishment which may foster children’s imagination. Finally, they can nurture moral reasoning by picturing moral dilemmas.

Key words: pupil voice, community of inquiry, stories, and children’s rights

Monireh Partovi has recently completed her PhD in Education at the University of Warwick. Her doctoral research was on ‘pupil voice’, research conducted across seven primary schools in both England and Iran. To this end, she facilitated 6 hours of workshops in each classroom using as a basis, the stories of the One Thousand and one Nights and community of enquiry as her pedagogical approach. She is currently working as a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Her current research focuses on facilitating change in an international school in Qatar through designing and implementing an intervention study.

Email: [email protected]


 Retranslation and Remediation of A Thousand and One Nights//Khatereh Sheibani (PhD), Assistant Professor of Persian, York University, Canada

This paper investigates the retranslation of A Thousand and One Nights as a multicultural and multi-mediated literary work. In this study, the characterization of King Shahryar and Shahrzad are specifically explored in a number of re/translations and adaptations of 1001 Nights as followed: a) The Syrian translation of the text in the 9th century; b); The retranslation of  A Thousand and One Nights into Persian by Tasuji in the 19th century c) Cinematic adaptations of the text including a Hollywood adaptation of the text, titled Arabian Nights (John Rawlins, 1942) and a loose cinematic adaptation directed by Tahmineh Milani, The Hidden Half (2001). I will examine notions of power, gender and agency in each of these translations and re-adaptations to shed light on the complexity of the text as a poly-systemic mega-text. Gender representation in each version demonstrates the interdependency of the text to the political, social and cultural discourses surrounding the artistic product in each time period. I will also study the reception of adaptations in connection with the artistic genre and medium. This paper shows how A Thousand and One Nights as a text has been commodified as a cultural product in each adaption or retranslation by recreating and reinventing the two main characters. For instance, in the loose adaptation of Milani the character of Shahrzad (here named Fereshteh) is re-historicized in modern times, risks her reputation and marriage to give a lesson to her husband. A Thousand and One Nights has travelled diachronically and synchronically in different cultures and created a zone for cultural interference. The reterritorialization of the lead male and female characters and the versatility of narrative and cultural settings and its constant remediation represents the dynamic nature of the text as an example of world literature par excellence.

 Khatereh Sheibani is assistant professor of Persian language, literature and culture in the Department of Languages,Literatures and Linguistics and member of the graduate program in the Dep. of Humanities. She studied English Literature in Shiraz University and general linguistics in the University of Tehran, Iran before coming to Canada. Khatereh completed her doctorate degree in comparative literature at the University of Alberta, Canada in 2007. She has written articles on modern Persian literature and the relations between Iranian cinema, Persian poetry, and the conventions of visual arts in literary and cinema anthologies and journals such as Iranian Studies and Canadian Journal of Film Studies. Her book entitled “The Poetics of Iranian Cinema: Aesthetics, Modernity, and Film after the Revolution” was published in November 2011 by I.B.Tauris, UK . Khatereh has been consulted and interviewed on issues regarding Iranian cinema by globally distinguished broadcasting services and journals such as CBC, PRI, and the New York Times. She has taught a wide array of courses on Persian language and literature, media and democracy, Iranian cinema, Middle Eastern cinemas, Contemporary Hollywood cinema, postcolonial literatures, and documentary film and television.

Email: [email protected]


Subversion of Established Traditions through Upholding the Women’s Cause: Mo’juz of Shabustar a Case Study//Hadi Sultan Qurraie, Associate Professor of Persian Language and Literature

It is commonly believed that the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the corpus of literature produced during the Constitutional Era ushered the land called Mamalek-e Mahruse-ye Iran to the so-called Modern Iran. Bearing in mind that one may find generational dependencies, parental and past/present relations between traditions and modern, yet tradition and modernity often stand against each other. Modernity may defy tradition through deconstructing it, dismantling it and rebuilding it. Iranian Constitutional Era and post-Constitutional period are no exceptions. For the poets and writers of constitutional era, along with their social, political and literary aspirations upholding women’s cause was of prime importance. Illiteracy, lawlessness, lack of health and sanity of public bath-houses, prevalence of superstitions and women’s plight were issues dealt in the works of authors such as Lahuti, Bahar, Iraj, Maraghrie, Talibof, Mo’juz, and others. Yet when we study the approach to and treatment of the mentioned social and cultural issues by different authors, they drastically vary according to the value systems, the social class and even the geographical region they did belong. For example, when we compare and contrast Bahar and Mo’juz’s treatment of the issues the two poets differ drastically in their approach to the prevailing problems. Bahar, being born to a relatively prosperous family in a large city, then moving to the capital Tehran and joining the circle of the elite, sounds more conservative in his choice of words, and dealing with the prevailing topics. Mo’juz being born in a village such as Shabustar, having very little formal schooling, leaving his place of birth in his early youth, travelling to Istanbul in search of livelihood, approaching the topics of social concern is absolutely different. In his choice of diction, Mo’juz had no inhibitions. His mother tongue, Azerbaijani Turkish, neither had been a court language nor had it been used in formal occasions. Like many other authors influenced by Mulla Nasr-al-Din school of Caucasus, he would even use obscenities in his poems if needed. Contrary to many poets of the period, Mo’juz highlighted the illiteracy of women as the most important problem of his homeland. His poetry is rife with addressing the gender discrimination which even now starts in very family that stands for a small social unit. Talking about women, Mo’juz never uses the word “woman.” For him a common noun has no real identity. Addressing women, he uses very ordinary proper nouns such as Tukaz Xatun, Kokab Xanum, Soghra, Golnar and many others—the names that they are in our own families or the next door neighbors. Along with reference to different authors of the period, this work will analyze one or two poems of Bahar and compare and contrast them with a few poems from Mo’juz and discuss how the latter is radical and serious in subverting traditions by upholding the women’s cause—not envisioned by the authors of the period. He highlights the illiteracy of women as the most fundamental problem of the Iranian society. “Shouldn’t Tukaz’s illiteracy be remedied, her son will never be civilized,” the poet repeatedly exclaims.

Hadi Soltan Qurraie (PhD) was born in Tabriz, Iran and did his B.A. in English in Tabriz University. He started his teaching career by teaching in high-schools of Tabriz and Tehran. He did his first M.A. in English literature in Mysore University, India and later held a number of administrative positions and taught at the University of Tabriz. After the Islamic Revolution, he relocated to the USA to continue his education. He did his second M.A. in English and another M.A. in Ancient Middle Easter Studies while teaching in Eastern Washington University. He did his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. Teaching a number of years in the University of Washington, he also taught in Portland Sate as well as University of Berkeley California as a visiting scholar. He is currently teaching Persian language and Iranian culture at DLI, Defence Language Institute, in the US.

Email: [email protected]


The Dialogue between the Avant-garde Persian Poetry of the 1920s and the European Literary Movements of the 1910s and 1920s//Farshad Sonboldel, PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

Critical texts which have categorized literary pioneer activities in early decades of 20th century have proposed two groups, playing major role in creation of Modern Persian Poetry; Nima’s advocates and marginal poets. Compared with diction and poetics in former group’s poems, those of marginals can reveal major conflicts about the definition of modern Persian poetry among all these pioneer poets.  Generally, there are three separate ideas about the origin of these differences. First of all, some argue these poets are just followers of their contemporary Modern Schools of art in the western culture like Futurism, Dadaism as well as Surrealism. However, another group states that we should refer to those poets’ assertions about their influences from western lifestyles rather than western arts. On the other hand, a considerable number of critics regard these poems as unfounded works which have no certain relevance with scholastic forms of literature.  The first point that should be made in this paper is to analyze mentioned factors to find the origin of Persian avant-garde poetry and read the claims about the origins of the poems closely so that we may discover a way for categorizing them based on their affinity with western schools of art. That is to say, we are seeking to analyze diction and poetics of selected poems _ of Tondar Kia, Houshanani, Mohamad Moghadam and Nima Youshij_ and compare them with their western counterparts in order to find the poetical and theoretical relation between Persian avant-garde poetry and its contemporary schools of art. Finally, according to the textual codes we may find a direct correlation between these poems and their poets’ personal social and cultural capitals which can demonstrate their peculiar attitudes toward the avant-garde poetry. To make it clear, we aim to know how personal, social and cultural capital may impact on poets’ interpretation of the concept of pioneer work of art.  Not only can illustrating the relation between Persian domestic avant-garde poetry and European schools shows the potentials of our early pioneer poetry in current century, but also considering social and cultural aspects of artists lives can play a part too.

Farshad Sonboldel is a PhD student of Modern languages at the University of St. Andrews. He also holds a Master’s and a Bachelor’s Degree in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Tehran. Sonboldel have published two books, a selection of his poems Metropolis and a critical study, Gozaresh-e Nahib-e Jonbesh-e Adabi-e Shahin about the works of an avant-garde Persian poet in the first half of the twentieth century. He has also published a number of literary essays in Persian Newspapers, magazines and websites. He is currently working on a research project about The Poetically Influential, Yet Marginalized Poets of the 1920s to the 1960s in Iran.

Email: [email protected]


The Proliferation of Pastiche and Kitsch: Terminal Decline or a Transitional Phase//Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian, Intendent Scholar and Writer

The proliferation and ubiquity of kitsch and pastiche in present-day Iran contrasts shockingly with the elegance of traditional art and architecture. Yet mock creations and lamentable taste have hardly featured in academic studies. The speculative appeal of Iranian contemporary art, which has also produced its share of kitsch as it strives towards an elusive authenticity, has deflected attention from the widespread onslaught of gaudy and pretentious pastiche which is visible above all in architecture but is also widespread in other guises. The phenomenon is not unique to Iran, it can be seen in various degrees throughout Asia, and has affected the misguided restoration of some Iranian monuments in Central Asia, as pointed out by Professor Hillenbrand and a number of East European scholars. In an article on the Sara-ye Amir and the Tehran Bazaar in Mohammad Gharipour’s “The Bazaar in the Islamic City”, I touched briefly and tangentially on the significance of a trend that reflects not only on artistic taste but on the erosion of the values of society as a whole. Taking as my basis those condensed arguments, I now propose to expand and elaborate by examining the origins of the trend, its most visible manifestations and the causal relations between socio-economic developments and artistic decline. It may be premature for a final judgement, but a preliminary analysis has been overdue. All is not bleak; the excellent professionalism of the ICHTO (before and after Ahmadinejad) and the work of some independent architects provide a ray of light and perhaps a clue as to the future trajectory of artistic creation through the rediscovery of criteria that used to produce harmonious results effortlessly? In summary, the issue boils down to one essential question: are we facing a terminal disease or a transitional phase on the path to a redemptive reinvention?

 Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian, born in 1940 in Tehran, was educated in Iran and Switzerland. She is currently a fellow trustee of the Soudavar Memorial Foundation (soudavar.org) and an independent researcher and writer. She has written and given presentations in Persian and English on a wide variety of subjects, including Qajar history, Georgian-Iranian cultural relations, biographies, Persian gardens and architecture, cultural heritage, history of cosmetics and environmental issues. Her articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, in multi-authored books (including introductions and forewords), and on Internet sites.

Email: [email protected]


 The Analytics of Cultural Production: From Cultural Prognosis to Cultural Engineering//Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, a rhetoric of engineering has become increasingly pervasive in the conceptualization, description, explanation and production of political and religious culture in Iran. Whereas pre-1979 discourses were informed by medical diagnoses and prognoses of the malaise of the body-politic and the body-social, a cluster of spatial, architectural and engineering concepts has refashioned the analytics of cultural production in the post-revolutionary period. Moreover, the post-1979 fusion of engineering concepts with Shi‘i theology and eschatology has led to the articulation of novel conceptions such as the “geometry of theology,” the “geometry of religious knowledge,” the “geometry of Mahdism,” and most importantly “cultural engineering.” To historicize the logic of cultural production in twentieth-century Iran, this paper outlines the epistemic shift from a curative conception of political culture inaugurated on the eve of the Constitutional Revolution to engineering analytics since 1979.

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi is Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. He has served as President of the International Society for Iranian Studies (2008-10), was the founding Chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto-Mississauga (2004-07), and was the Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2001-12), a Duke University Press journal. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Iran Nameh and is coeditor with Homa Katoouzian of the Iranian Studies book series, published by Routledge. In addition to thee edited books, he is the author of Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (Palgrave, 2001) and Tajaddud-i Bumi [Vernacular Modernity] (Nashr-i Tarikh, 2003). He is currently completing a manuscript that explores the discursive transformation of modern Persian political language from biopolitics to spatial governance. It traces the shift from a restorative rhetoric of medical sciences to the constructional language of engineering. Tavakoli holds a BA in political science and an MA in history from the University of Iowa, and a PhD in history from the University of Chicago.

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The Zigzag Path, the Lone Tree: Where is my Friend’s Home? Thirty Years Later// Farshad Zaehdi Naderi (PhD), Lecturer (Assistant Professor), University Carlos III de Madrid

Now, nearly 30 years after the release date of Kiarostami’s Where is my friend’s home? (1987), it is time and there are enough historical perspectives to come back and reanalyse the movie. The wide acknowledgment of Kiarostami as a global author, maybe, provides us with some kind of freedom to rethink one of the most local films of his filmography, and one of the most important representations of children in Iranian cinema. What makes the film interesting is an apparent pre-ideological space in which a little hero just moves from a village to another in order to find his friend’s home and turn back his homework’s notebook. Many of the scholars saw some metaphysical references in this simple action of a child out of home, and his poetic will to overcome the adult’s absurd obstacles. But any esoteric reading of the film may close the way to observe the cognitive map that the movie offers us. In other words, and apropos of the hypothesis, Where is my friend’s home? discovers a microcosmic village and the dwellers of a system of social relations and power. With regards to what was mentioned, the object of this study is the sequence of the encounters between little Ahmad and the male gathering of the village (including his own grandfather who is the first one trying to supress him), which sheds light on the kiarostamian idea of social conflicts and on the very materialistic way that his camera explores the ideological notion of national identity.

 Farshad Zahedi Naderi received his Ph.D. in History of Cinema in 2008. At present he as a senior lecturer teaches Moving Image History and Film Studies at University of Carlos III de Madrid. He is Associate Member of Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS (University of London) and member of research project of Childhood and Nation in World Cinema. In recent years he has published widely about his research interests: Iranian cinema and cultural studies; aesthetic roots and gender representations. Among his publishing stands out “Myth of Bastoor and Children of Iranian Independent Cinema” Film International. vol. 12, n. 3. pp. 21-30, 40 años de cine iraní: el caso de Dariush Mehryui [40 years of Iranian cinema: The case of Dariush Mehrjui], Madrid, Fragua: 2010 and “Irán, cine y modernidad” [Iran, Cinema and Modernity], Revista de Occidente, n. 343, 2009, pp. 33-53.


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[1] Much relevant information and reference may be found in Dariush Borbor,  “The Influence of Persian Gardens on Islamic Decoration”, Architecture Forms Functions, Vol. 14, Lausanne, 1968, pp. 84-91,  and تاثیر باغ‌های ایرانی بر تزئینات ساختمانی اسلامی , Pol-e Firuzeh, Vol., 7, No. 18, Special Issue: Intangible Cultural Heritage, Tehran, 2009, pp. 33-50.

[2] Or, “Muhammedan architecture” which is even worst.

[3] On YouTube videos of ‘Morgh-e sahar’ performed by Googoosh and Leila Forouhar, respectively, a viewer identified as ‘asad morad’ comments: “it is better u leave this song alone, it is not for ‘MOTREBS’” [sic].

[4] Godard, A., Godard, Y. and Siroux, M.(1936) Athār-é Īrān: annales du service archéologique de l’Īrān. Paris: P. Geuthner.

[5] Isfahan’s 1986 development plan was proposed by Eugene Beaudoir and Organic. 1972. “Isfahan

Development Plan.” Art and Architecture. For more detail on family planning projects in Isfahan see the video report by population council. PopulationCouncil. 1968. Iran’s National Development plan.

For more details on the Khaneh settlement see: 1976. Grumman F14 and Employees in Iran. Directed by Grumman-Aerospace-Corporation.

[6] Isfahan’s 1988 development plan was proposed by Hadi Mirmiran. 1988, Regional Developmen Plan for Isfahan. Budget and Development organisation.

The conference has been funded by the Honeyman Foundation, School of Modern Languages (University of St Andrews), and Institute of Iranian Studies (University of St Andrews). 

The Honeyman foundation was established by the generosity of A.M. (Sandy) Honeyman, a former Professor in the University of St Andrews in 1985  with the aim of encouraging education and research in general and study of Middle Eastern languages and cultures, in particular.