Northwestern Events Calendar


The Colloquium for Global Iran Studies Presents: A Panel on Iranian Diaspora Studies

When: Thursday, May 20, 2021
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Cindy Pingry  

Group: Middle East and North African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings, Academic, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


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The Colloquium for Global Iran Studies Presents: A Panel on Iranian Diaspora Studies


Persis Karim, Neda Nobari Chair of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies and Professor of Comparative and World Literature, San Francisco State University

Neda Maghbouleh, Associate Professor of Sociology and Canada Research Chair in Migration, Race, and Identity, University of Toronto

Amy Malek, Assistant Professor of International Studies, College of Charleston and Associate Research Scholar, Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, Princeton University

Farzaneh Hemmasi, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Toronto

The discussion will be moderated by Ida Yalzadeh, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Asian American Studies Program and Visiting Faculty Affiliate of the MENA Program at Northwestern University.

About the panel

As scholars and educators, we continually trouble the boundaries of Middle East Studies and Asian American Studies, carving out a space to consider transnational histories of empire, migration, assimilation, racism, gender and sexuality that emerge from U.S. interventions, and popular movements for self-determination, in West Asia. At the same time, we are invested in the frameworks developed in Asian American Studies and other interdisciplinary fields in the humanities, which provide crucial tools for thinking about how Iranian bodies in North America (and Europe) are hyper visible and invisible at the same time, positioned as threatening but also as assimilable, as the ultimate other and as symbols of racial progress and exceptionalism.

We hope to explore the ways in which an interdisciplinary engagement with Asian American Studies and the humanities more broadly has opened new pathways for thinking about Iranian diasporas in research and teaching. How do we change curricula, redefine concepts, add new layers of meaning and otherwise change the story of who Asian Americans are, how they come to be in North America and what their presence means for politics and culture? What Asian American scholarship has been particularly generative for us and where have we had to innovate and adapt to find concepts and frameworks that work for the populations we study? How do Iranians fit into our picture of the histories of empire, racialization, assimilation, the global division of labor, extractive capitalism, neoliberalism, wars and revolutions--and the gender and sexual politics of racialized identity--that have been major concerns for Asian American Studies?

This panel brings together Persis Karim, Neda Maghbouleh, Amy Malek and Farzaneh Hemmasi in conversation in an attempt to unpack the importance of humanistic inquiry in Iranian diaspora studies.

Persis Karim, who is the director of the only Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies in the United States, brings with her many years of teaching and creative writing on the diaspora. She has edited three volumes of Iranian American literature: A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian Americans (1999); Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006); and Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (2013).

Neda Maghbouleh is the author of the celebrated text The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race (2017), where she uncovers the racial complexities of the Iranian diaspora between first and second generations. She has now expanded her work to study the racialization of Iranian, Syrian and other MENA newcomers in the U.S. and Canada.

Amy Malek is a sociocultural anthropologist specializing in the intersections of migration, citizenship, and culture in the Iranian diaspora. Her current book project is a transnational ethnography of the impacts of cultural policies on diasporic Iranian communities in Sweden, Canada, and the United States.

Farzaneh Hemmasi is an ethnomusicologist whose most recent work, Tehrangeles Dreaming: Intimacy and Imagination in Southern California's Iranian Pop Music (2020), explores Iranian expatriate cultural industries in Southern California.

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