Monday, December 27, 2010

Negar in NYC

Since I lived in New York in 2001, I've had one dream and one goal only (besides writing my books, working on being a great educator and practicing my yoga), that dream was to return to New York (triumphant) and have a place I could call my own. Last year, around this time, that dream came true. I came back to New York with tenure at Duke University, and thanks to my great broker, Michael Villani, I bought my own little place close to the Hudson, on hallowed ground. (I have to tell you more about the "hallowed" part some day).

This year, I am going for another dream, thanks to the love and encouragement of my powerful coach Hildie Dunn at the Handel Group, and that is to write articles in magazines, like Elle and Vogue and who knows, maybe someday, The New Yorker.

I am designing this dream playful and joyfully and with a huge dose of focus and intention. So to start things off in a fun way, I've created a Tumblr account where I will keep track of ideas for things I might write about.

My new play space is called Negar in NYC.

And..... wait for it!

Here's the tagline:

I love New York and I still live my life in Gotham with a sense of wonder
~ Like Amelie ~
Negar in NYC is New York City's Amelie in Paris.

I AM sooooo excited! Join me in designing your own dreams! Dream along with me! Come explore the City with me! Give me feedback on my writing! And let's live like there's no tomorrow!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Skyping everything

It has been a busy week of Skype and activism.

This week, was the six month anniversary of Brainquake. To continue our celebration of women's lives which commenced with Brainquake on April 26, 2010, Golbarg Bashi and I started the Brainquake Channel on Youtube. We will be posting interviews with spectacular women who inspire us and everyone around them in the months ahead. First up, is Liss Nup, one of my favorite online activists and the powerhouse behind One Million Voices for Iran Campaign

I also Skyped in to the CIANTEC conference in Brazil and gave a paper on the Iranian post-election crisis entitled: "Green is the New Green" Here's the view in Brazil of me giving the paper:

and here's my view Sorta! I love Skyping everything now!

Oh, and Khakestar, my lovely little Booj, was very well-behaved through it all!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Relationship Revolution

As the school year begins, I would like to share this wonderful piece by Melinda Blau on the internet and the Relationship Revolution. Thanks to Cathy Davidson for bringining the piece to my attention.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What defines a Woman? How do we continue the debate generated around feminism by Brainquake and Boobquake?

I don't think that a sustained discussion of what defines a woman and what the character of feminism is today would have happened had both Boobquake and Brainquake not happened. The question is, how do we sustain this discussion once it's been generated in social media in the cracks and crevices created by two duelling quakes?

As Lina Srivasta writes, "social media in its present forms is limited in its ability to create a sustained, long-term effective movement." Social media is great for bringing together like minds across the globe, great for testing ideas, great for ephemeral debates, but if we want to sustain a focused educational discussion or an educational campaign on a global scale, what do we do? Where do we go next? That's where my thinking stalls today.

Perhaps as my colleagues Ed Webb and Lisa M Lane write, we'll be just fine without permanence, "let the data flow past, focus on the now, the experience, rather than seeking to hold on to anything."

Or maybe as my brilliant friend Liss Nup put it in her postmortem on Boobquake and Brainquake: "We came for the boobs, stayed for the smarts." And we'll keep the smarts coming!

Meanwhile the Brainquake team is still uploading photos and biographies of amazingly talented, creative, intelligent and dazzlingly capable women on the Brainquake Fan Page and on the Brainquake Tumblr site. Check it out and keep sending up your stories and uploading important news; keep sharing your comments and ideas and keep putting up your photos of women who made a difference in whatever way, large or small.

Future of learning to be determined by students, panel says

Though they discussed a wide array of topics, the Future of Learning Panel centered its conversation on one theme articulated by session Chair Cathy Davidson: “How do we make the most of traditional institutions and unite worlds that are not always part of our institutions as traditionally conceived?”

The panel consisted of five professors from Duke University:

* Cathy Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC – the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory
* Laurent Dubois, a historian of French colonialism and the Caribbean
* Negar Mottahedeh, a highly respected academic author who staged the first-ever Twitter Film Festival
* Mark Anthony Neal, the author of four books, a frequent commentator for National Public Radio and contributor to several on-line media outlets
* Tony O’Driscoll, author of “Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration,” with Karl M. Kapp.

In addition to discussing the future, the panelists talked about some of their individual experiments with technology in the classroom. Mottahedeh spoke about her experiment with the Twitter Film Festival in her introduction to film studies class. Students posted video clips to a class blog and Tweeted about them with links to analysis. The effort attracted more than 300 followers from all walks of life.

Dubois is currently working on a project called the Haiti Lab that will link Haitian students with faculty through the Internet to continue education while the country is still in a state of disrepair.

WWW 2010 - "The Future of Learning is the Web." From left to right: Laurent Dubois, Negar Mottahedeh, Mark Anthony Neal. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker.

“There’s a need for the university to be a space of rapid reaction,” he said. “Haiti needs an immediate plan and action.”

Davidson drew national press attention by writing a blog post titled “How to Crowdsource Grading,” which encouraged educators to use peer learning to evaluate students’ work and make it public. Now that the end of the semester is approaching, Davidson said her class did surprisingly well, producing a high caliber of work and motivated by the fact that it will be published.

O’Driscoll is teaching a class in which students put all deliverables into the creative commons and evaluate one another’s work. He said students held one another accountable for the material they produced, even asking to use his criteria to assign grades.

Neal has used his classes to take students’ knowledge into the Durham community through live webcasts, one of which drew 10,000 viewers. He also posts prompts to his exam questions publicly to employ generative learning.

Much of the panel’s spirited discussion was generated from audience questions, addressing issues like the use of Twitter during class, the ways technology affects student attention, and computer games as motivational learning.

“To allow students to be on their blackberries and computers is giving up a lot of power associated with being in ivory tower,” Anthony said.

WWW 2010 - "The Future of Learning is the Web." Cathy Davidson. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker. Creative Commons rights

Though some argue that electrons distract students rather than enhance their experiences in the classroom, Davidson pointed out that just because students stare at their instructors does not mean that they are paying attention.

Some of the panelists felt that the use of social media during class could actually enhance the student experience. O’Driscoll said he uses a class hash tag to monitor student interest and questions, as a replacement for the “note card technique” of collecting questions. There are even filter applications available to help determine the most relevant questions.

“Teaching does not exist in a pristine way,” Davidson said, noting that learning will continue to change as technology advances.

O’Driscoll said he hopes that more educators will follow the example of a game-based school called Quest to Learn that uses the “magic circle” method to enthrall students. He said teachers need to find “the magic between solid instructional design and the magic circle, and ground it deeply in good, solid pedagogy.”

Mottahedeh ended the discussion by noting that it isn’t the technology that will determine the future but the students.

“Students are the difference in the world, and we’ll figure out together how they will make that difference,” she said.

-by Rachel Cieri

Thanks Rachel! Here's the original story

Yup...once again I tweeted through my entire panel!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#Brainquake and Boobquake: Reflections on two feminist social media campaigns

Brainquake-- a response.

I've had a chance to think through how the Boobquake and Brainquake campaigns went down in social media and in traditional media and wanted to take this opportunity share some of my thoughts with all of you.

I think it is clear that the Brainquake campaign on Facebook and #Brainquake on Twitter was a response to the Boobquake campaign which was started by Jen McCreight. In other words, in my thinking anyway, there have been plenty of pronouncements of "the Sedighi variety" on women and women's bodies to which we could have responded with any number of campaigns, but we haven't and we didn't.

Brainquake was a direct response to Boobquake and an effort to celebrate the lives and achievements of women in Iran and elsewhere. In my thinking, again, and I cannot speak on behalf of Golbarg, there is a lethal cultural context which harbors a blatant orientalism (a notion of backwardness vs. progress) in which Boobquake was born. Combine this with misunderstandings of the Iranian women's movement and Iranian feminism & its historical, social, political and cultural contexts and mix in boobs and what you have is --wow-- explosive.

Now take this batter to social media venues such as Twitter, Youtube and Facebook where anyone can say anything, anything goes, and what you have is a total dissolution of a campaign with potential.

This was the subject of a very lively discussion on Twitter between myself and a group of social movement/social media strategists last night. Lina Srivastava summarizes our discussion really well in her blog on Strategies for Social Change. We all benefited from seeing how both Boobquake and Brainquake played out and devolved to the lowest common denominator on April 26, 2010: Boobs and frivolity on one end, and violent explosive anger on the other. Kendall Thiessen really said it best: "Once you introduce boobs, you KNOW the kind of response you are going to get. Clearly the message was lost."

I want to point out the little known fact that Jen McCreight and I have been in close contact throughout both campaigns and that I have been in support of the #boobquake hashtag on Twitter and in support of Jen herself personally. I told her, though, flat out, that I was dong Brainquake. This, because it was very clear, early on, that what she had conceived and what happened were going to turn out to be two different things.

Hers was a scientific experiment and a 3rd wave feminist response to a cleric's suppositions. She's an atheist, a soon-to-be-PhD-student, and a skeptic and she wanted to test out Sedighi's claims regarding the correlation of quakes and women's immodesty. Her curiosity is precious and I cannot look askance at that as a university professor myself. In addition, anyone who was on social media in the last week, knows that while the #boobquake hashtag brought attention to the situation in Iran and the post election crisis (and I saw this as an excellent development from where I stood), it also brought with it the hordes of heterosexual men egging women on for a cleavage show on Monday. Add to that, the commodification of breasts, cleavage & women's skin in the global context of the media, and the campaign, sure enough, became a piece ripe for porn magazines. Playboy of course picked it up.

All this put a great deal of stress on the direction of the Boobquake movement and lay the burden on those who understood what Jen was up to... well to explain it, defend it, and sometimes fight against the very things it was promoting, for example the exposure of women's bodies, in the context of commodification and commercialization. And a healthy scientifically minded skepticism aimed and religious fervor and superstition, in the context of a racist and orientalist culture that either willfully misunderstands and misrepresents or unknowlingly conceives of everything Middle Eastern as backward.

Also, while Jen was taking orders for Boobquake t-shirts that would make money for earthquake rescue charities, capitalism and commodity culture dictated that a tongue-in-cheek social movement become a money making scheme for a sex - hyped-downturned economy, to the extent that just today, the University Store at Purdue where Jen studies, started selling "Boobquake t-shirts" without Jen's permission.

All this to say that while I understood Jen's mission and stood by her as a woman, a student, a skeptic and a scientist, I also could see that the combination of Orientalism (notions of backwardness vs progress) + misunderstandings of the Iranian women's movement / feminism & its cultural social and political contexts + boobs was doomed to a total failure.

Why not have a Brainquake then and quake some brains to freedom? And why not celebrate the lives and achievements of women? Why not celebrate individual lives instead of meat? These were my thoughts as I watched a science experiment devolve into frivolity, commercialism, and the commodification of women's bodies in social media and traditional media

My efforts and Golbarg's, as I see it, was to enable the stories of women to be heard. And if you look at the Brianquake Twitter feed and the Brainquake Tumblr site or even the photos put up on the Facebook Brainquake page you'll see this celebration in action in the midst of a battle ground that is determined to turn Golbarg, Jen and myself into rabid cats. We didn't succumb to this. Neither did we misunderstand or misrepresent the other's intentions knowingly. A critique of the direction of the campaigns themselves were taking, one as a response to the other, one major and one minor, was inevitable.

I hope this helps and inspires others to do better and achieve greater things on behalf of all of us. We all stand on the shoulders of giants and I am humbled by all the things I have seen and heard from each of the participants in the Brainquake campaign. I leave you with this quote from by Rafia Zakaria

"In socio-cultural paradigms where women’s bodies symbolise familial and national honour, as in Iran or Pakistan, their covering is seen as corresponding directly to the piety and righteousness of society. Consequently, there is a brutal and obstinate disregard for women’s autonomy and their status as human beings equal to men.

Conversely, in western societies, a similarly reductionist calculus construes the exhibition of the female body as a sign of liberation, with an equally stubborn blindness to how such sexualisation debases women. Both versions are replete with untruths perpetuated by men. And just as a woman in a burka is complicit in the lie that the female form is the source of discord, so is the woman who displays her body complicit in demeaning it to a mere sexual object"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#Brainquake: A Celebration of Women's lives April 26, 2010

Wow! Yesterday's Brainquake was a fantastic celebration of the lives and accomplishments of women everywhere. As I was introducing these amazing women to peeps on Twitter and posting their bios, I was filled with feelings of awe and total humility at the magnitude of our collective capacity to transform the world.

I'll post more about the press and discussions around Boobquake and Brainquake later on this week. But, meanwhile, check out Brainquake women's awe-inspiring pictures and biographes on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and become a fan of the Brainquake page on Facebook!

I love my collaborator Golbarg Bashi for her warm friendship, her ingenuity, vision, courage and smarts. She is a force of nature and the brains behind Brainquake.

Here: Listen to her podcast with MideastYouth as she discusses Brainquake

Friday, April 23, 2010

#Brainquake: Why I won't be joining #Boobquake

When Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi made his stupid comment that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes, he of course joined fellow fundamentalist religious preachers such as Pat Robertson who have made similar claims about marginalized groups, women, the poor, third world nations, etc being responsible for natural disasters. In the case of Pat Robertson he went so far as accusing Haitians of having made a “pact with the Devil.”

The Sedighi comment was no news to Iranian women, nor was it a funny joke. For over 3 decades the Islamic Republic has used and abused women's bodies and women's socio-economic and political rights in shaping and defining its repressive policies. Iranian women have fought back in various ways, one of which has been to dress “subvervily” but as it is evident in the Green Movement (the name the Iranian opposition is known by) , it is not their “beauty” or bodies that they have utilized in fighting against a brutal theocracy but their brains, their creativity, art, writings etc.

Golbarg Bashi and I are saddened that Jen McCreight (a blogger at Blag Hag), and the so-called feminist response has been “showing off some cleavage for ‘Boobquake’ this Monday”. This campaign has aroused the evidently insatiable enthusiasm of the web community, male supporters in particular who can’t wait to see “regular” girls and women, many their direct friends to “showing off their tits”.

Her own words suggest a lighthearted mockery, a statement on women's rights and a desire to scientifically test Sadeqi's claims.

Everyday women and young girls are forced to “show off cleavage” and more in order simply to be heard, to be seen, or to advance professionally. The web is already filled with images of naked women; the porn industry thrives online and many young girls are already vulnerable to predatory abuse. Violence against women and girls has consequences for the sexualisation of women and girls. The extent of their sexualization is evident in the hundereds of replies that pour into the “Boobquake” Facebook page where women write, apologetically: "I don’t have boobs, not fair" or "Hey, I only have a C cup… ” and “what about those of us who no longer have a cleavage? they sag too low.”

World-wide, the sexualisation of women and younger girls, as young as pre-schoolers is a genuine problem and as mothers, feminists, and young women ourselves we believe that it is time to move away from this “bare it all” mentality.

Let’s create a “Brainquake” and show off our resumes, CVs, honors, prizes, accomplishments (photo evidence), because the Hojatoleslam and the Islamic Republic of Iran are afraid of women’s abilities to push for change, to thrive despite gender apartheid (Did you know that over 64% of students studying at universities in Iran are women?) Let’s honor their accomplishments by showing off our abilities, our creativity, our ingenuity, and our smarts on our blogs, on Wikipedia, on Twitter, on Youtube, on Flickr and all over Facebook. And remember to use hashtag #brainquake on Twitter.

Join the Brainquake Facebook event page here:

Here's some inspiration:
Why I won't be joining the "Boobquake"

UPDATE: So here's the first Youtube video for #Boobquake. I guess we could say this is the first response to #boobquake & #brainquake's call to action in one swell package, well kinda?!? Rock the ayatollah!

Some research on Social Media and the Iranian Post Election Crisis, 2009

I've had the privilege of connecting with new friends to discuss my research on the uses of social media in the Iranian post election crisis, 2009.

This piece Green is the New Green on the activities of the Green Movement in calling for civil liberties and human rights in Iran will be published in the journal New Politics shortly.

Green is the New Green: Social Media and the Post Election Crisis in Iran, 2009

And then there is this podcast which apparently blocked Iranian access to (I'm joking of course!)

Finally, Rachel Cieri of the FutureWeb blog did an interview on our Future Web 2010 panel in Raleigh where I will join my friends and colleagues Cathy Davidson, Laurent Dubois, Mark Anthony Neal, and Tony O'Driscoll and speak on the uses of Social Media in the Iranian post-election crisis of 2009.

I hope you'll find this material useful in your own research. Let me hear from you!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Karbala Drag Kings and Queens: A history of female ta'ziyehs.

This article is a draft of research I have done on female performance traditions in Iran. It is soon to appear in the volume entitled Eternal Performance: Ta'ziyeh and Other Shiite Rituals edited by Peter Chelkowski.

Karbala Drag Kings and Queens

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Green is the new Green!

The Persian language blogosphere is a rich, varied and dynamic sphere of over 60,000 frequently updated blogs. In 2005, out of the 100 million blogs registered around the world, 700,000 were registered Persian blogs inside Iran and in the diaspora. With over 20 million Iranians connecting to the internet, and over 600,000 Iranians signed up on Facebook by the Presidential elections of the summer of 2009, the Iranian cyber community is by far the most dynamic community in the Middle East, and one that is unambiguously diverse. Of the over 60, 000 Persian language blogs, three quarters may be characterized as non-political in content, interested rather in questions of religion, poetry, and sexuality.

Shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president in June 2005, there were clear indications of a campaign for the centralization of state power over traditional media. During the first two years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, more than 100 newspapers and other periodicals were banned. 70% of the press outlets were run by active supporters of Ahmadinejad. It is important to note that what remained of the opposition's news outlets was banned or put under strict surveillance in the aftermath of the June 12th Presidential elections in Iran in 2009. On the eve of the 2009 election, foreign reporters were either imprisoned or expelled from Iran. This, in part led to the rise of online “underground” papers, such as Kalam Sabz ( Green Word) and Khiaban (The Street), and more urgent uses of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and the Iranian social media site:

According to Nasrin Alavi, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, the Vice President for the reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi in the Presidential elections of 2009, was the first Iranian on Twitter to call the Presidential elections of June 12th, 2009, a fraud. He was by no means the last. Elham Gheytanchi describes the days following the election:

Immediately after the results of the election were announced showing Ahmadinejad’s “landslide victory”, protesters poured into streets. For three consecutive days, masses of Iranians marched peacefully onto the streets in silence asking one question written on their placards “Where is my Vote?”

As the results of the election were announced, a twitter message from Bandar Abbas, a port city in the south of Iran, read (Raye ma ra dozdidand, bahash darand poz mida) “They have stolen our votes and they are flaunting our stolen votes!”

In an unprecedented move, the political establishment decided to cut all SMS messages, the Internet connections and mobile phones in the week after the election results were announced. The next day, demonstrators in at least 20 different locations in Tehran gathered waving placards that read (Doroghgoo khaen ast va khaen tarsoost va tarsoo sms ghate mikonad) “The Liar is a Traitor and the Traitor is fearful and the fearful cuts the SMS.”

As news and images of the protests on the ground circulated in social media all over the internet: on Flickr, on Twitter, on YouTube and on Facebook, they were channeled back to Iran via satellite, broadcast largely by way of the then popular BBC Persian.

A sense of euphoria and unprecedented freedom had dominated national politics during the presidential campaigns. Iranian state owned television broadcast a series of lively debates among the candidates. This was a first, under the Shi’ih theocracy. During one of the debates, the reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi put on green shawl to highlight his status as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad. A month later, on the days following the election, an all-embracing, spontaneous movement donning green armbands, finger-bands and headbands took to the streets to call Ahmadinejad’s victory a fraud—the color green thus became the symbol of the movement. The opposition was lovingly called the “Sea of Green", the “Green Wave”, or the “Green Movement”.

The silence of the street protesters was broken as the violence of the regime became palpable. Neda Agha Soltan was brutally shot and murdered on Kargar Avenue, at the corner of Khosravi and Salehi streets in Tehran on June 20th, 2009. The YouTube video documenting her death in the midst of a small crowd circulated on Facebook and Twitter immediately. Her name, Neda (“voice” or “calling” in Persian), became the rallying cry for the Iranian opposition.

Outside of Iran, around the globe, images of the spectacular crowds in green and the murder of Neda Agha Soltan captured the hearts of people everywhere. High school students in the U.S. would talk about “Going Iranian” against authority figures. Indeed, as Golbarg Bashi noted in the heat of the summer, “Iranian is the new black”. Hundreds of songs dedicated to Neda in English and in Persian, started circulating on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Her name became a search topic or so-called “hashtag” on Twitter (#Neda). It was the highest ranking hashtag on June 20th, 2009 indicating thousands of posts on the day of her death.

A corollary hashtag, #iranelection, continues to rank on Twitter. It was the highest ranking hashtag for weeks following the elections, dropping only momentarily after the tragic death of Michael Jackson. It ranked high as a search topic on the 30th anniversary of the hostage crisis Nov 4th, 2009 and on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic on February 11th, 2010.

It may come as no surprise, then, that thousands of people on Twitter, put a green overlay on their avatars in solidarity with the Sea of Green in Iran. Many changed their location to Tehran and set their time zone to +03:30 GMT to protect people who were actually tweeting from the ground. This image of a Neda with a green overlay-- a Neda Soltan who was initially mistaken as the murdered Neda Agha-Soltan-- comprises of the many thousands of the green avatars of active Twitter subscribers in the aftermath of the summer elections in Iran. (Neda Soltan is currently seeking asylum in Germany in the wake of the publicity that the misuse of her image attracted.)

The thousands of supporters the Green Movement on Twitter and Facebook became nodal points of information for what was happening on the ground, in the absence of foreign news agencies and independent media in Iran. Many of these supporters continued to help spread the news about various online and in-person campaigns. Others came to the aid of Iranian protesters by identifying safe havens for the wounded on Google maps as word spread that the wounded were being picked up and imprisoned by military forces upon their arrival to hospitals around Tehran.

December 7, 2009, about 6 months after the Presidential election, Majid Tavakoli, a student at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University of technology was arrested after he gave a talk during the student protests. A photograph of him in a hijab (full Islamic veil) was published by official news agencies announcing that he had attempted to flee security forces donned in women’s clothing. Supporters of the Green Wave around the world, saw things differently. Cognizant that this photograph was an attempt to ridicule Majid Tavakoli, by associating his courage with “the weaker sex”, thousands of Iranian men all over the world, donned the hijab and posted their photos on the web, using them as their avatars on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

In captioning their photos, the men claimed their solidarity with Iranian women who have no choice but to veil under the Islamic regime; they voiced their opposition to the Human Rights violations of Islamic Republic and called for the release of the imprisoned Majid Tavakoli. This global campaign is known as the “The Men’s Scarves Movement” or the “I am Majid” #IAmMajid campaign.

The international campaign eventually went live. A YouTube recording signals its impact elsewhere: A group of Iranian men calling themselves “Majid” pose, donning the hijab in front of the Eiffel tower.

This act of resistance to the violation of Human Rights in Iran had stunning reverberations: French men and women donned the veil in solidarity with the Iranian Men’s Scarves Movement, and in this simple gesture that went viral on the internet, showed their opposition to l'affaire du voile in France.

This is not to say that the effort to bring about civil rights and the fight against the violation of Human Rights in Iran has subsided in anyway, but to suggest that the circulation of the images and sounds of the post-Election period, their going viral on the internet, has had significant consequences for oppositional movements and global collaborations elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Iranian Political Crisis: Social Media Brought you the News!*

The Iranian Political Crisis: Social
Media Brought you the News!

Negar Mottahedeh (Duke University)

3:30pm Main Library, Room 202

Many have remarked on how the 2009 Iranian post-election uprising for human freedoms entailed the unprecedented corporalization, by the protesters, of new media, SMS, and social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. The embrace of these technologies seemingly corroded the architecture of journalism, shifted the parameters of the archive, and forced us to think again about the structure of academic scholarship in the digital age.

The talk will describe the ways in which social media were used in the months after the crisis and the consequences of this merger of bodies and technologies in Iran and around the globe.

Sponsored by InterSect, the Comparative Studies Graduate Student Association, The Department of Comparative Studies, the Middle East Studies Center, and the Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Iran and the Arab World: New Horizons

I would like to invite you to come to Rutgers for the

Iran and the Arab World: New Horizons

On February 13th, 2010


~The Center for Middle Eastern Studies Proudly Presents~

Iran and the Arab world: New Horizons

Saturday 13 February, 2010
Rutgers Student Center
RSC Multipurpose Room A
126 College Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Conference: 10 AM– 5PM


Saïd Amir Arjomand, SUNY at Stony Brook
“Iran’s New Political Class and the Green Movement.”
Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, University of Pennsylvania
“A Tale of Two Cities: From Cairo to Tehran.”
Negar Mottahedeh, Duke University
“The Iranian Political Crisis: Social Media Brought you the News!”


Hadi Ghaemi, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
“Iran’s Struggle for Civil and Human Rights and Its Impact in the Middle East”
Faraz Sanei, Human Rights Watch
“Shaping Popular Opinion: Arab Civil Society and Iran's Green Movement.”
Leili Kashani, The Center for Constitutional Rights
“The challenge of ethical solidarity at a time of internal repression and external threats.”

LUNCH~1:30-2:30 PM


Hussein Ibish, The American Task Force on Palestine; Foundation for Arab-American Leadership
“An overview of contemporary Arab attitudes towards Iran.”
Roozbeh Shirazi, CUNY
“Demographic Timebombs, Heroic Martyrs, and Knights of Change: Locating the Youth in
Contemporary Politics in Iran and Jordan.”
Stephen R. Shalom, William Paterson University
"Democratic Upsurge in a Region of US Hegemony."

A special screening of Shirin Neshat’s Award-winning Women without Men (2009) will be presented with selected scenes from the film, followed by a keynote speech delivered by Hamid Dabashi on “Shirin Neshat’s Women with/out Men: Gendering
Revolt in Iran, the Arab and Muslim World.”


If coming in by train from NYC:
(For “destination station” choose New Brunswick: Travel time from NY Penn Station is approximately 1 hour under normal circumstances)

If coming in to New Brunswick by private transportation:
(Parking is available off of College Avenue by turning onto Senior St. then onto Sicard or from Bartlett onto Sicard, behind the Rutgers Student Center)

Please direct any concerns or questions to: Shehnaz Abdeljaber

Speakers’ Biographies

Saïd Amir Arjomand: “Iran’s New Political Class and the Green Movement.”

BIO: Saïd Amir Arjomand is Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology and Director of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies in New York City. He received his Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Chicago. A pre-eminent sociologist, he is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Organization and Societal Change in Shi'ite Iran from the Beginning to l890 (1984); The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran (1988); and After Khomeini: Iran Under His Successors (2009). Professor Amir Arjomand is the founder and current President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies and founding Editor of the Journal of Persianate Studies. Many historians and sociologist concur that it would be difficult to understand the victory of the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath and the role of political Shi'ism in Iranian political culture without the perceptive and extraordinary scholarship of Professor Amir Arjomand. In 1988, the American Historical Review described his comparative perspective on the Iranian revolution as “breathtaking.”

Hamid Dabashi: “Shirin Neshat’s Women with/out Men: Gendering Revolt in Iran and the Arab and Muslim World.”

BIO: Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. An internationally renowned cultural critic and award-winning author, his writings range from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). His best known books are Theology of Discontent (1993); Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future (2001); Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran (1999); Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema (2007); Iran: A People Interrupted (2007); and an edited volume, Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema (2006). A selected sample of his writing is co-edited by Andrew Davison and Himadeep Muppidi, The World is my Home: A Hamid Dabashi Reader (Transaction 2010).

In the context of his commitment to advancing trans-national art and independent world cinema, Professor Dabashi is the founder of Dreams of a Nation, a Palestinian Film Project, dedicated to preserving and safeguarding Palestinian Cinema. He is also chiefly responsible for opening up the study of Persian literature and Iranian culture at Columbia University to students of comparative literature and society, breaking away from the confinements of European Orientalism and American Area Studies.

Hadi Ghaemi: “Iran’s Struggle for Civil and Human Rights and Its Impact in the Middle East”.

BIO: Dr. Hadi Ghaemi is an Iran analyst and eminent human rights expert. He is currently the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In 2008, together with a group of international human rights activists, he founded the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran which has become one of the leading groups reporting and documenting human rights violations in Iran and building international coalitions in defense of Iranian human rights defenders. Between 2001 and 2004, he worked with NGOs focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2004, he joined Human Rights Watch as the Iran and United Arab Emirates researcher. His work at Human Rights Watch focused international attention on the plight of migrant workers in Dubai, as well as repression of civil society in Iran. He came to the United States in 1983 as a student and received his doctorate in Physics from Boston University in 1994. He was a professor of Physics at City University of New York until 2000. His groundbreaking research in Nano-Physics has been published in prestigious scientific journals such as Nature and he holds four patents in this field.

Hussein Ibish: “An overview of contemporary Arab attitudes towards Iran.”

BIO: Dr. Hussein Ibish is a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership. From 1998-2004, Dr. Ibish served as Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American membership organization in the United States. From 2001-2004 he was Vice-President of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom. Dr. Ibish has written widely on Hate Crimes and Discrimination against Arab Americans, civil liberties in the United States, race and human rights, and the Palestinian struggle for a nation state. A respected analyst and commentator in Arab and American media outlets, his most recent writings are “Race and the War on Terror,” in Race and Human Rights (Michigan State University Press, 2005) and “Symptoms of Alienation: How Arab and American Media View Each Other“ in Arab Media in the Information Age (ECSSR, 2005) and What’s Wrong with the One-State Agenda? Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal (ATFP. 2009). He has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Leili Kashani: “The challenge of ethical solidarity at a time of internal repression and external threats.”

BIO: Leili Kashani works at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City where she advocates for a just closure of the prison at Guantánamo and against illegal detentions more broadly. She is a senior editor at Arab Studies Journal and has a graduate degree from the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Over the years, she has organized and participated in various NYC events concerned with social movements in Iran and strengthening opposition to sanctions and war.

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet: “A Tale of Two Cities: From Cairo to Tehran.”

Bio: Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet is a leading historian of the early modern period in Iranian history at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the second Iranian-born woman scholar to achieve tenure at an Ivy League university. Professor Kashani-Sabet completed her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history at Yale University. Her book, Frontier Fictions: Shaping the Iranian Nation, 1804-1946 (Princeton University Press, 1999) is a groundbreaking study of Iranian nationalism in which Professor Kashani-Sabet analyzes and theorizes the significance of land and border disputes, with attention to Iran’s shared boundaries with the Ottoman Empire (later Iraq and Turkey), Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf region. Her book is being translated into Persian by Kitabsara Press, Tehran, Iran.

Professor Kashani-Sabet teaches courses on various aspects of modern Middle Eastern history, including ethnic and political conflicts, gender and women's issues, popular culture, diplomatic history, revolutionary ideologies, and general surveys. She is finishing a book entitled, Conceiving Citizens: Women, Sexuality, and Religion in Modern Iran (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2010). She is also completing a book on America 's historical relationship with Iran and the Islamic world entitled, The Making of the 'Great Satan': A History of US - Iranian Relations (under contract with Princeton University Press). In addition to her academic work, Professor Kashani-Sabet has written several fictional pieces. Her first novel, Martyrdom Street, will be published by Syracuse University Press in 2010. Professor Kashani-Sabet has directed the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania since 2006. She is a member of the Association of Iranian American Writers.

Negar Mottahedeh: “The Iranian Political Crisis: Social Media Brought you the News!”

BIO: Negar Mottahedeh is an associate professor of film, literature and women's studies and the co-curator of the Reel Evil: Films from the Axis of Evil and Aftershocks: 9/11 film series at Duke University. Her work has been published in Camera Obscura, Signs, Iranian Studies, Radical History Review, and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Her first book, Representing the Unpresentable on Iranian cinema and its relation to 19th Century visual history was published in 2008. Her second monograph, Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema was also published in 2008 by Duke University Press. A perceptive theorist of Iranian visual culture, Professor Mottahedeh writes and speaks about culture, innovation and digital technologies.

Faraz Sanei: “Shaping Popular Opinion: Arab Civil Society and Iran's Green Movement.”

BIO: Faraz Sanei is a Researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, where he focuses on issues related to Bahrain and Iran. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, he served as Senior Human Rights Lawyer and Program Director for IHRDC. Mr. Sanei received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his J.D. from the Vanderbilt University Law School.

Stephen R. Shalom: “Democratic Upsurge in a Region of US Hegemony."

BIO: Stephen R. Shalom is a professor of political science in William Patterson University in New Jersey (WPUNJ). He received his Bachelor's degree from M.I.T., his Master's from Northeastern, and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University. He began teaching at William Paterson in 1977. He is the author of many books and articles on US foreign policy, neocolonialism and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Some of his best-known books are The United States and the Philippines: A Study of Neocolonialism (1981); Which Side Are You On? An Introduction to Politics (Longman, 2003) and Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing U.S. Intervention After the Cold War (South End Press, 1993), which has been described by Noam Chomsky as "lucidly argued and carefully documented, Stephen Shalom's study of the pretexts for intervention is an invaluable guide to the recent past and unlikely future." He is also editor of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy. Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice by Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar (Paradigm Publishers, 2007) and is on the editorial boards of Critical Asian Studies and New Politics, and writes for Z Magazine and ZNet. Professor Shalom directs the Gandhian Forum for Peace & Justice at WPUNJ, an organization that engages with “high school, college, and university students and teachers in innovative and practical ideas, actions, and programs that promote peace and justice through cooperative engagement, dialogue, and respect for opposing views and opinions.”

Roozbeh Shirazi: “Demographic Timebombs, Heroic Martyrs, and Knights of Change: Locating the Youth in Contemporary Politics in Iran and Jordan.”

BIO: Dr. Roozbeh Shirazi is currently a member of the faculty of the School of Education at CUNY-City College. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative International Education with a disciplinary focus in Political Science from Columbia University. His dissertation is a critical ethnographic investigation of secondary schooling for boys amid national and international calls for education reform in Jordan. His research interests include the cultural production of schooling, the pedagogy of citizenship and national belonging, the Iranian diaspora, and the politics of representations of "youth" in the Middle East. Dr. Shirazi has extensive experience as an educator and researcher internationally and domestically, and has published articles examining the history of US involvement in education reform in Afghanistan, as well as the politics of education reform in Jordan. His forthcoming publications examine the construction of Iranian identities in diaspora, as well as the gendered production of schooling in Jordan.

Conference convener Golbarg Bashi

BIO: Golbarg Bashi joined the Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) in September 2009 where she teaches Iranian and Middle Eastern Studies. She holds a First Class B.A. (Honors) in Middle Eastern Studies from Manchester University, a M.Sc. in Women's Studies from Bristol University and has recently completed her doctoral thesis on a feminist critique of the human rights discourse in Iran. Her research interests include the theories and practices of human rights in Iran and the Muslim world, modern Iranian social and intellectual history, and women’s rights movements in Iran/Arab world and in a comparative context. Her publications include, Feminist waves in the Iranian Green Tsunami? (2009); From One Third World Woman to Another: A Conversation with Gayatri Spivak (2010) and Eyewitness History: Ayatollah Montazeri (2006).

Conference organizers:

Shehnaz Abdeljaber: Outreach Coordinator, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and English and Africana Studies major at Rutgers.

Farah Hussain: Undergraduate student; Department of Comparative Literature and Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers and researcher at ArteEast in New York City.

Art work:

Poster designed by Shahin Haghjou, student of graphic design at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona, Spain.
Program designed by Bahareh Sehatzadeh, Publicity Officer, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and PhD candidate in the Department of Urban Planning, Rutgers.

Iran and the Arab World: New Horizons is sponsored by CMES and by the College Avenue Dean, with thanks to Rutgers University Global Programs.
Special thanks go to CMES director Dr. Charles Haberl for his gracious support!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Representing Iran in Film and Social Media to be Discussed in Live Webcast, Jan. 29

So many of my friends on Twitter and Facebook have commented recently about how they always see me online, but that they rarely see me in real life. It's a bit scary frankly, but that doesn't mean we're any less connected. Luckily, I still see my students during office hours and my colleagues too: at talks and meetings. Yes, believe it or not!

This week though, there's a twist. Tomorrow, that's Friday, I'll hold my office hours online and EVERYBOY can tune in and ask questions and participate. The plan is to talk about the role of social media in the Iranian post election crisis and about Iranian cinema on the 31st anniversary of Islamic Republic of Iran. I consider this an open forum, so join in with your thoughts.

As I spoke with James today about the flow of the questions tomorrow, I also thought it would be important to address the way that social media have impacted activism, journalism and Humanities scholarship. Also, my hero Walter Benjamin, "The Reel Evil Films from the Axis of Evil Film Festival" that I curated in 2003 and the continued persecution of the Baha'is in Iran are important topics for discussion tomorrow.

So let's chat, 12 noon EST. Tweet your comments and questions with hashtag #dukelive Or email them to or post a comment on Duke's Ustream page on Facebook

Representing Iran in Film and Social Media to be Discussed in Live Webcast, Jan. 29

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Boy was that ever so much fun! There were about 277 people tuned in at one point. Another 100 have now watched the program online. Best office hours ever! Won't ever top that! Thanks everyone for tuning in and for asking great questions.