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Coordinator, Persian program

Roshan Institute Associate Professor in Persian Studies

Research

As an Iranian-Armenian-American, my research concerns the literature of the Middle East with a special focus on Persian and Armenian literature. Within Persian literature and culture, my focus is on the members of sexual, ethnic, and religious minority populations, ones marginalized by normative society. I examine topics ranging from the representation of liminal figures such as social, sexual, and religious subalterns and transgressors in medieval Persian Sufi poetry to the taboo-laden sigheh marriages (temporary marriage) and the representation of the stigmatized sigheh women as sex workers in modern Iranian fiction and film to Iranian-Armenian minority writers and their sense of identity. My work thereby addresses the embodiments of liminality through which authors (and directors) challenge and critique social hegemonies. My first monograph, Subjectivity in ‘Attar, Persian Sufism, and European Mysticism (Purdue University Press 2017) reassesses the significance of the concept of transgression and construction of subjectivity within select works of the medieval Persian Sufi poet Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri (1145-1221). My second monograph, Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Iranian Film and Literature (Cambridge University Press 2020) examines the representation of sigheh (temporary marriage) in three novels and two short stories from the Pahlavi era (1924-1979) and two cinematic works produced after the Islamic Revolution (1979-). My third monograph, tentatively titled Triple Consciousness: Armenians in Transnational Literature and Film, investigates the various creative ways that Iranian-Armenian authors, as members of religious and cultural minority populations of Iran and later in the diaspora, craft and negotiate their ‘self’ through their writing.

Awards

UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Taylor Fellow, spring 2021
The Carlyle Sitterson Award for Teaching First-Year Students, UNC-Chapel Hill, Spring 2020
UNC Office of Research Development Publication Grant, Office of Research Development, 2020-2021. $2,160.
UNC QEP Integration of Making into Courses Grant, BeAM Program, 2019-2020. $5000.
UNC Research-Related Skills Course Development, Office of Undergraduate Research, 2019-2020. $3000.
UNC Summer School Online Course Conversion Grant, Spring 2019. $3000.
Carolina Asia Center Course Development Grant, spring 2019. $1000.
UNC Summer School Teaching With Technology Mini-Grant, spring 2019, $750.
American Institute of Iranian Studies, conference organization grant, spring 2019, $10,000.
UNC IAH Schwab Academic Excellence Award, spring 2018.
NYU-Abu Dhabi Institute Conference Organization Grant awarded to organize the conference titled: “Marriage, Family, Religion, and Culture in Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Iran and the Middle East,” in New York University in Abu Dhabi, on January 9-10, 2017. (co-organized with Janet Afary).
UNC University Research Council Grant June 2017. $7,500.
UNC First Year Seminar Course Development Grant, spring 2017. $750.
UNC University Research Council Publication Grant, fall 2016. $2,600.
UNC Reynolds Junior Faculty Development Award, fall 2016. $7,500.
The Hammed Shahidian Critical Feminist Award, The Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, 2014.
The Jafar and Shokoh Farzaneh Paper Prize in Persian Literature and Culture, South Central MLA, 2012.

Courses

ASIA/PWAD 69: First-Year Seminar: Wars and Veterans: Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan
ASIA 124: Iranian Post-1979 Cinema
ASIA 126: Introduction to Persian Literature
ASIA/WGST 127: Iranian Women Writers
ASIA/CMPL 256: Love in Classical Persian Poetry
ASIA/CMPL 258: Iranian Prison Literature
ASIA/WGST 329: Middle East Women Writers
ASIA/CMPL 359: Literary Diasporas of the Middle East
ASIA 431: Persian Sufi Literature
ASIA/CMPL 442: Postcolonial Literature of the Middle East
ASIA/WGST 471: Gender and Sexuality in Middle Eastern Literature
ASIA 785: Critical Genealogies of Middle East and North Africa Studies

Publications

Monographs

Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Iranian Film and Literature. Global Middle East Series. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Subjectivity in ‘Attar, Persian Sufism, and European Mysticism. Comparative Cultural Studies Series. Purdue: Purdue University Press, 2017.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

“Zulaikha’s Displaced Desire in Jami’s ‘Yusuf va Zulaikha’,” Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies 4.2 (November 2019): 62-77.

“The Fluidity of Iranian-Armenian Identity in Zoya Pirzad’s Things We Left Unsaid.” International Journal of Persian Literature. Iranian Minority Women Special Issue 4. 1 (Fall 2019): 104-122.

“Breaking the Silences about Non-hetero Female Sexuality via Blogging in Iran: ‘The ‘not-woman, not-man’ in Saghi Ghahraman’s Poetry.” Journal of Homosexuality (August 2019). https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2019.1661730

“Pirzad’s Diasporic Transnational Subjects in ‘A Day Before Easter’.” International Journal of Persian Literature, Issue 3. 1 (August 2018): 110-132.

“Mapping Out Socio-Cultural Decadence on the Female Body: Sadeq Chubak’s Gowhar in Sange-e Sabur. Frontier: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Mapping Gendered Violence Special Issue 39. 2 (July 2018): 206-232.

“The Abject Outsider: “The Story of Two Gay Men. Journal of Iran Namag, Iranian Men and Masculinities Special Issue 3. 1 (spring 2018): 164-188.

“Socially Peripheral, Symbolically Central: Sima in Behrouz Afkhami’s Shokaran. Asian Cinema Journal, Iranian Female Sexuality Special Issue, Issue 27.2 (fall 2016): 151-163.

“Yusuf’s “Queer” Beauty in Persian Cultural Productions.” The Comparatist, No. 40. 1 (fall 2016): 245-266.

Book Chapters

Shifting Sexual Ideology and Women’s Responses: Iran Between 1850-2010. Homa Hoodfar and Anissa Lucas-Helie, eds. Sexuality in Muslim Contexts: Restrictions and Resistance, Zed Books, 2012, pp. 52-80.