Seminar on Iranian Studies

Dear Iranian Studies Seminar Members and Guests,
The third meeting of the 28th consecutive year of Columbia University Seminar on
Iranian Studies for the academic year 2015-2016 will take place on:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
at 5:30 pm in the
Faculty House of Columbia University

The speaker will be
Dr. Nahid Siamdoust of The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University
Who will lead the discussion on:
The Politics of Music in Iran

We will gather in the lounge of Faculty House from 5:00-5:30.
Seminar will start at 5:30.
Please notify our Rapporteur, Josiah Bethards, at jjb2190@columbia.edu, if you will attend the lecture. (Please also specify if you will stay for dinner.)

We are looking forward to the pleasure of seeing you at the seminar.
Co-Chairs: Vahid Nowshirvani and Ahmad Ashraf

To reach the Faculty House:
Enter the Wien Hall Gate on 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. Walk past Wien Hall, then turn right to the Faculty House.


Dr. Nahid Siamdoust will talk about her forthcoming book, which follows the work four musicians – a giant of Persian classical music, a rebel rock and roller, an underground rapper, and a government-supported pop star – each with markedly different political views and relations with the state. Her research demonstrates how these musicians each devise strategies for conveying their politically and socially critical messages to their audiences while retaining their authenticity in the face of restrictions. Each chapter studies in greater depth a specific time period so that, taken together, “The Politics of Music in Iran” offers a chronological overview of music as an alternative public sphere in the Islamic Republic.
In her talk Dr. Siamdoust argues that in the absence of a free public sphere in Iran over   the past three decades, music has provided an important political space where cultural producers and their audiences engage in dialogues over societal, ideational, and political   values. Both through the substance of their discourses and through their very participation in this field, they contest the state’s ideological power. Each chapter studies a specific time period so that, taken together, her book offers a chronological overview of music in the Islamic Republic. Each chapter also focuses on a specific genre and the work of one musician situated within that genre. She writes about the constraints that these artists experience, and she explores their strategies for coping within a repressive environment. Maintaining a sense of “authenticity” is important to all of the artists discussed; this became especially challenging following the 2009 presidential elections, which caused the musicians in question to take up varying positions. 

About the Speaker

Dr. Nahid Siamdoust is currently a research scholar at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University.  She recently obtained her doctorate in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford. Her dissertation examines the field of music production as a politically charged public sphere in post-revolutionary Iran. Titled “Iran’s Troubled Tunes: Music as Politics in the Islamic Republic,” it won the prizes for best dissertation in her field from both the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies as well as the Middle East Studies Association of America. Her book “The Politics of Music in Iran” is forthcoming from Stanford University Press in 2016. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Art History from Barnard College, and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University. Before returning to academia and concurrently with her studies, Nahid worked as a full-time Iran and Middle East based journalist for TIME Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and Al Jazeera English TV. Her academic research focuses on the intersection between politics, culture and media (music included) in Iran and the wider Middle East.

Josiah Bethards
JD candidate
Columbia Law School