The Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Society for Iranian Studies

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Mahdi Tourage

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Abstract

The Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Society for Iranian
Studies (ISIS), the largest international gathering of scholars in the field, was
held in Santa Monica, CA, on 27-30 May 2010. There were sixty-four panels,
each with three to four presenters addressing topics ranging from literature,
Shi`ism and Sufism, to modernity, politics, women and gender. Among
the ones that I found most interesting were “Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran,”
“Engagements with Reason: Shi`ism and Iran’s Intellectual Culture,” “Persian
Literary and Cinematic Representations of a Society in Transition,”
“Shi’i Modernity, Constitutionalism, Elections, and Factional Politics,”
“Reconstructing the Forgotten Female: Women in the Realm of the Shahnama,”
“Zones of Exploration: Society, Literature, and Film,” “Re-Reading
Iranian Shi`ism: International and Transnational Connections and Influence,”
“The Politics of the Possible in Iran,” “Women’s Issues in Modern
Iran (in Persian),” “Discourses on Self And Other,” and “Sufism: Poetry and
Practice.”
Also featured were classical Persian music presentations and additional
roundtable discussions. One telling example of often overlooked aspects of
Iranian society was “‘Waking Up the Colours: Candour and Allegory in
Women’s Rap Texts,” a paper on Iranian women’s rap music. Presenter Gai
Bray, an ethnomusicologist, argued that unlike the common conception of
rap as direct language, Iranian female rappers often use allegory to deal with
difficult subject matters, such as rape and prostitution. In another memorable
paper Babak Rahimi (University of California, San Diego) argued that
Bushehr’s commemoration of Ashura serves to solidify communal identity.
The ritual ends by burning the stage upon which the performances took
place, signifying a communal act of creative destruction through which new
identities are reconstructed via building new ritual sites ...

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