Spring 2017 SEMINARS - February 15 2017

Seminar on Iranian Studies

The fifth meeting of the 29th consecutive year of Columbia University Seminar on
Iranian Studies for the academic year 2016-2017 will take place on:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
at 5:30 pm in the
Faculty House of Columbia University
Our speaker will be

Prof. Kathryn Spellman
Who will lead the discussion on:
Iranian Diaspora: The Paradoxes of Belonging

We will gather in the lounge of Faculty House from 5:00-5:30.
Seminar will start at 5:30.

Please notify our Rapporteur, Anna Rahel Eva Fischer <arf2147@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 116 th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. Walk past Wien Hall, then turn right to the Faculty House.


This seminar focuses on the Iranian Diaspora and various ways that it has evolved since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Starting with a brief comparative overview of integration patterns in key receiving countries, the first part of the paper sheds light on the diverse socio-economic, political, ethnic, religious and secular positions within the Iranian Diaspora and how these positions relate to socio-economic, cultural and political forces both in Iran and the country of resident. Concentrating on primary research carried out in the UK, the second part of the paper will look closely at the multiple allegiances that British Iranians hold, and how they shape and are shaped by an intersection of factors, including underlying conditions in British society; intra-diasporic dynamics; and ongoing relations with Iranian society and political/religious authority structures in Iran. It will be argued that internal contestations of Iranian-ness – which often revolve around questions of secularism and Islam -are divisive and significant factors in Iranian diaspora relations.

With a focus on cultural production and identity formation, the paper also aims to highlight the manifold ways that distinct and overlapping Iranian networks have become key conduits to preserve, negotiate or challenge Iranian and British cultural forms and politics. The paper will end by discussing the growing trend in western countries to monitor and securitize diasporic communities and people of Muslim extractions (often homogenized into a unitary group) and what this means for diasporic Iranians. Conversely, it will touch on the extent to which diasporic communities have become key sites for state authorities to monitor, threaten and punish their national cohorts.


Dr. Kathryn Spellman Poots is a Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Institute, Columbia University and Associate Professor at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. She received her MSc and PhD in Politics and Sociology from Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research interests include Muslims in Europe and North America, the Iranian Diaspora, transnational migration networks, and gender and religion in the Middle East and North Africa. Her publications include the monograph: Religion and Nation: Iranian Local and Transnational Networks in Britain (Berghahn, Oxford and New York) and the edited volumes: The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: The Arab Spring and Beyond (Edinburgh University Press) and Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices (Edinburgh University Press). She consults for organisations that focus on the rights and experiences of refugees and minority groupings, including the UNHRC (Geneva), UNESCO (Paris), UK Foreign Office, US State Department, German Foreign Office and the London Detainee Support Group.

Anna Rahel Eva Fischer