Fall 2013 Seminars


Dr. Sean Anthony: December 11
Special Session: 150th Birthday of
Abraham Valentine Williams Jackson: November 8

Dr. Alice C. Hunsberger: October 10
Prof. Maryam Borjian: September 12 

(Additional dates will follow)


Dr. Sean Anthony
University of Oregon

Wednesday December 11, 2013
Hidden Redeemers and Sleeping Heroes:
The Ghayba-Idea in 8th Century Iran from Indigenization to Internationalization


The idea of the ghayba—i.e., the occultation of an eschatological savior—has been a centerpiece of Shi'ite Islam throughout its long, storied history. Although a considerable body of scholarship has been written on the minor occultation of the twelfth imam of the Twelver Shi'a in 874 CE and his subsequent major occultation in 941, the earliest articulations of the ghayba-idea appeared at least a century and a half earlier but have received less attention and are, therefore, little known outside specialist circles. This talk explores these earliest articulations of the ghayba-idea as promulgated by the Kaysaniyya Shi'a at the outset of the eighth century CE and offers historical explanations for the belief's rapid spread thereafter outside Kaysaniyya circles among rival Shi'ite communities as well as Jewish and Zoroastrian millenarian movements of the eighth century.



Sean Anthony is currently a member and Andrew W. Mellon fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Oregon. His most recent books include Crucifixion and Death as Spectacle: Umayyad Crucifixion in its Late Antique Context (American Oriental Society Monographs, 2013) and an Arabic edition and English translation of Ma'mar ibn Rashid's Kitab al-Maghazi, one of the earliest biographies of the Prophet Muhammad to survive until our era, to be published in early 2014 by the NYU Press's newly minted Library of Arabic Literature.


Special Session: A Celebration of the 150th Birthday of
Abraham Valentine Williams Jackson (1862–1937)

Columbia College Class of 1883;
Founding Father of Iranian Studies in North America;
Initiator of the Field at Columbia University.

Friday November 8, 2013
Presidential Room on the 3rd Floor
The Faculty House at Columbia University

Program (3:00–6:45pm):

  • Opening Remarks: Prof. Ehsan Yarshater, 3:00–3:05
  • Welcome and Introducing the Speakers: Prof. Vahid Noshirvani, 3:05–3:15
  • Prof. W. W. Malandra (Prof. Emeritus, University of Minnesota)
    Jackson's Life and Work, 3:15–3:45
    Jackson's Contribution to Avestan Studies, 3:45–4:25
  • Break: 4:25–4:50
  • Dr. Dan Sheffield (Princeton University)
    Jackson and Zoroastrianism 4:50–5:30
  • Prof. Jason BeDuhn (Northern Arizona University)
    Jackson and Manichaeism, 5:30–6:10
  • Discussion: 6:10–6:45
  • Dinner: 6:45–8:15


    Dr. Alice C. Hunsberger

    Thursday October 10, 2013
    Not Just Love and Epic Poems: Philosophical Poetry in Persian and the Case of Nasir Khusraw


    “How long will you sing of curly locks and ruby lips, of roses and of tulips?” asks Nasir Khusraw of his fellow 11th-century Persian poets, criticizing their focus on pretty love poems. He has something else in mind—a poetry that explores philosophy, religion, metaphysics, eschatology, faith, rationality and ultimate meaning. On the occasion of the publication of her newest book, Pearls of Persia: The Philosophical Poetry of Nasir-i Khusraw (London 2012), Dr. Alice Hunsberger will discuss this largely unexamined genre of Persian literature. Through a close reading of key terms and poems of Nasir Khusraw, the leading exemplar of philosophical poetry in Persian, Dr. Hunsberger will lift the curtain a bit to reveal both his poetic art and the philosophicalcontent of his poetry. She will discuss how, in spite of Nasir Khusraw’s thousand years of ranking as a major Persian poet, several 20th -century scholars questioned the validity of his poetryas poetry. Containing a dozen articles by leading scholars of Islamic philosophy, Ismaili studies and Persian literature, Pearls of Persia is the first book to examine this subject, and thus makes a major contribution to not only Khusruvian studies but also Persian and Islamic literature in general.



    Alice C. Hunsberger received her PhD in Persian Studies from Columbia University, writing her award-winning dissertation on Nasir Khusraw’s philosophy of the soul. Her MA thesis also examined Ismaili philosophy with the translation and analysis of a text by Nasir al-Din Tusi. Dr. Hunsberger has written and lectured extensively on Nasir Khusraw, and is the author of the acclaimed biography, Nasir Khusraw, The Ruby of Badakhshan: A Portrait of the Persian Poet, Traveller and Philosopher (2000), which has been translated into Persian, Tajik, Russian and Arabic. A former Research Fellow at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, Dr. Hunsberger frequently teaches courses on Islam and Sufism at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she twice won First Prize in the President LeClerc Award for Excellence in Teaching. She also lived a year in Isfahan, teaching at the Aryamehr (now Sharif) University of Technology.


     Prof. Maryam Borjian
    Rutgers University

    Thursday September 12, 2013 
    English in Post-Revolutionary Iran: From Indigenization to Internationalization


    Dr. Maryam Borjian explores the issues around language and the perceptions of English as "suspicious" within Iranian society. The indigenization movement, together with anti-Western and anti-imperialist sentiments, has continued to dominate the political and educational discourse'of post-revolutionary Iran for the better part of the past three decades. Yet, despite the state’s constant efforts during the last 30 years, the existing system of English education in Iran is not entirely indigenized. Rather, it is marked by two diverging forms of English: (1) the indigenized model that is used by the state-run education programs, and (2) the internationalized or Anglo-Americanized model, which is used by privately run education programs throughout the nation. The latter model is the one currently in vogue and most demanded by Iranians.



    Dr. Maryam Borjian, a Teachers College, Columbia University alumna, is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Language Programs in the Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures at Rutgers University, where she also teaches courses on the politics, economics and sociology of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian languages.

    Prof. Borjian's recent book English in Post-Revolutionary Iran: From Indigenization to Internationalization explores the idea that post-revolutionary Iran was envisioned with a homegrown, indigenized model of English education – an indigenized English that was free from the influence of the English-speaking nations. She has also published a dozen book chapters, journal articles andentries in Encyclopædia Iranica since 2007, including "Persian Bilingual and Community Education among Iranian-Americans in New York City," (with R. Shirazi). Her work has also appeared in O. Garcia, Z. Zakharia, and B. Otcu (eds.), Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism: Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City, Multilingual Matters: Bristol, Buffalo and Toronto, 2012.

    Other publications include:
    "Plights of Persian in the Modernization Era," (with H. Borjian), Joshua Fishman and Ofelia Garcia (eds.), Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity: The Success Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts, Volume II, pp. 254-67, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

    "The Rise and Fall of a Partnership: The British Council and the Islamic Republic of Iran (2001-2009)," Journal of Iranian Studies, 44/4, 2011: 541-62.

    "The Last Galesh Herdsman: Ethno-Linguistic Materials from South Caspian Rainforests," (with H. Borjian), International Journal of Iranian Studies, 41/3, 2008: 365-402.

    "Marriage Rites in South Caspian Villages: Ethnographic and Linguistics Materials from Māzandarān," (with H. Borjian), Oriental Archive, 75/2, 2007: 191-214.

    "Isa Sadiq: The Founder of Modern Education in Iran," CIEclopedia: WHO's WHO in Comparative and International Education Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2007.






    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.

    Back to Top