Friday, October 14, 2005
136. Fresh News from ISIS
With many thanks to Dr. Hamid Akbari from ISIS (International Sosiety for Iranian Studies) who has sent the following information to this office. J. D
This ISIS E-mail includes the following
I. Keddie Wins Balzan Prize
II. In Memory of Hammed Shahidian by Shahrzad Mojab
III. Correction: The Maclaren Foundation and the Morteza Rastegar Endowment Announces the Appointment of Dr. G.R. Farhad Assar as Sir Harold Bailey Research Associate at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University [Sir Harold Bailey was incorrectly reported to ISIS as Sir Harald Bailey].
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I. Keddie Wins Balzan Prize
Emeritus Professor of History Nikki Keddie has been awarded the Balzan Prize by the Zurich-based International Balzan. Foundation whose aim is "to promote, throughout the world, culture, science, and the most meritorious initiatives in the cause of humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples." In honoring Keddie for her research and publications on the Islamic world, the foundation cited her political biography of the Islamic reformer Sayyid Jamal adDin "al-Afghani" as "one of the most important contributions to understanding the connection between Islamic ideology and Western imperialism."
The prize includes funding for a three-year program, beginning in 2005-06, to support two visiting scholars each year who will teach and conduct research on women, gender or the family in the Muslim world. For the first year, Keddie has invited Holly Shissler (UCLA PhD, 1995), Assistant Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish History and Associate Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, and Nayereh Tohidi, Associate Professor of Women's Studies at California State University, Northridge.
Shissler's research focuses on late Ottoman writings on the institution of marriage and the position of women in society, and the relationship of this literature to Ottoman writings on other topics related to the problem of "selfstrenthening." She contends that by the mid-19th century, Ottoman intellectuals and statesmen were seeking to create the social conditions they understood as having nurtured the development of capitalism, political reform and scientific and industrial revolutions abroad, and that in viewing the complex of social structures underpinning these developments, they sought to identify threads that ran through and would provide access to the web of arrangements that had produced modernity. The position of women was one of these threads, and Shissler further contends that Ottoman concern with the "Woman Question" was part of a comprehensive approach to engendering sweeping change, rather than a mere symbolic nod to modernity.
Tohidi's project is "The Global-Local Interplay of the Women's Movement in Iran." Her hypothesis is that due to interactions between certain local and national demographic, socio-political and economic dynamics and certain global and international factors connected to the processes of globalization, Iran is going through a bottom-up process of socio-cultural transformation toward secularization and democratization. Iranian youth and women in the new educated middle class now constitute the most active elements of civil society in Iran and the primary agents of change and democratization.
Professor Keddie is only the third woman to be awarded a Balzan Prize in the foundation's nearly 50-year history. Nominations for the prize are received from the world's leading learned societies, and candidates are selected by a committee composed of eminent European scholars and scientists. The foundation has awarded prizes to 100 artists, scientists, humanitarians and institutions since 1961. Previous winners include Eric Hobsbawm, Jorge Luis Borges, Paul Hindemith, Gyorgy Ligeti, Samuel Eliot Morisson, Jean Piaget and Stanley Hoffman.
The Balzan Foundation was established in 1956 by Angela Lina Balzan, daughter of Eugenio Balzan who was managing director and co-owner of the Milan-based Corriere della Sera until 1933 when he left Italy in protest against the fascist regime. He died in Lugano in 1953.
II. In Memory of Hammed Shahidian: A Scholar-Activist & A Beloved Friend / Shahrzad Mojab
I have lost a beloved friend; my academic confidante. Hammed left us a legacy of a committed scholar, an honest intellectual, and a friend with a gentle soul. This legacy is inscribed in his writings, lectures, and in our personal memories.
Hammed was a talented, knowledgeable, and brilliant scholar. He had personal and intellectual commitment to the struggle for gender justice. His scholarship consists of a diverse body of critical literature on social movements, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, exile, immigration and diaspora. He contributed to debates in all these areas in North America, Europe and in the Middle East.Hammed’s books, Women in Iran: Gender Politics in the Islamic Republic (2002, Greenwood Publishing) and Women in Iran: Emerging Voices in the Women’s Movement (2002, Greenwood Publishing) are seminal contributions to a crucial debate in international feminist studies, in particular, the repression and resistance of women in the Islamic theocracy of Iran and in the Middle East. These books have encouraged a vast range of debate, originated from the theoretical challenges that Hammed put forth. The significance of these debates goes beyond the case of women in Iran, and touch on feminist theory as well as concrete struggle for gender equality in the Middle East and the rest of the world. In the first book, Gender Politics in the Islamic Republic, for example he undertook a detailed study of certain institutions such as paid work, domestic labour, law, politics, sexuality, and culture in order to demonstrate the role of state coercion in the construction of gender relations. He argues that despite women’s resistance and the reversal of some of the legislation, no crucial change has taken place in gender relations. This study challenges the currently fashionable theoretical claims, which overemphasize the flexibility of the institution of the state in general, and the theocratic state in particular.In the second book, Emerging Voices in the Women’s Movement, Hammed embarked upon another significant theoretical challenge; he demonstrated the limits and constraints of political reformism and provided a critique of the cultural relativist approaches to ‘indigenous’ feminisms. This critique is most timely, and is indispensable for both theory and policies rooted in cultural relativism.Hammed’s influence in the sphere of feminist research has shaped the field of women’s studies of the Middle East. The vast repertoire of his publications, research, lectures and conference presentations around the world on the topic of social movements, feminism, women and revolution, activism, and women’s experience of exile indicate his dedication to enhancing theoretical debates in these areas (check his website at www.shahidian.com). His scholarly work constitutes important contributions to the emerging field of diaspora studies. Some of his published articles in this area are first-hand and unique contributions to exilic life and political activism in the West.However, it is important that I assess Hammed’s scholarship no only in the context of Iranian women’s studies, but also in the international context of the brutal war against women in the Middle East and the rest of the world. We live in a world in which some 2 million girls between the age of 5 and 15 are introduced into the prostitution market of global capitalism. Femicide is the order of the day in south Asia, and Mexico. Women from poverty stricken areas of Russia, East Europe, and Asia are trafficked to the world sex markets, where they are forced into sex slavery. In parts of the world, women are subjected to genital mutilation, honour killing, and stoning to death. It is unfortunate that much of the scholarship in the last 15 years or so does not seriously challenge these patriarchal atrocities. Post-structuralism, identity politics, postmodernism, and cultural relativism, which dominate the academic world, have in fact been silent on the atrocities committed against “Muslim” women. Hammed resisted this kind of scholarship. His points of reference were not the theoretical illusions of some academic feminists; he was, rather, interested in exposing religion as one of the many strongholds of patriarchy with devastating impact on women’s lives. He was able to show how the Islamic theocracy has turned Iran into a hell for women. And he never did this from an Islamophobic perspective. Hammed had tireless energy for envisioning new areas of inquiry. He was fed up with repetitious and inconsequential debate on ‘modernity and Islam.’ He encouraged us to collaborate with him on an anthology on the issue of secularism and democracy. This research was an effort to make visible an old, yet overlooked trend in Iranian culture and politics. He wanted to explore areas of political contestation in Iran waged by writers, youth, and human rights activists that have not yet been adequately studied. His proposed book project was the first on this subject and combined both highly theoretical and personal narratives by secular activists in Iran. This approach reflects Hammed’s theoretical emphasis to study social movements from below, an approach he took both in his published works and in developing a manuscript on the underground leftist movement in Iran.Hammed’s premature departure has left us with a huge void. I mourn more than the loss of a beloved friend. I mourn the loss of an intellect with a profound commitment to social justice. I also celebrate Hammed’s life and legacy by reminding myself and the generation to come of our duty in living a responsible life; a life dedicated to justice.
III. The Appointment of Dr. G.R. Farhad Assar as Sir Harold Bailey Research Associate at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University
The Maclaren Foundation and the Morteza Rastegar Endowment, which promote inter-cultural studies around the world, are happy to announce the appointment of Dr. G.R. Farhad Assar as Sir Harold Bailey Research Associate at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University, for the 2005/6 academic year. During his appointment Dr. Assar plans to complete the first of a multi-volume study of the political and numismatic history of Parthia, will organize public lectures on Parthian coinage and history, and advise graduate and post-graduate researchers in advanced studies of ancient Iran. Dr. Assar shall also further conduct ground-breaking research with various members of the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, regarding the application of a new technique for reading faded texts on papyri and ostraca. Dr. Assar is one of the world's foremost authorities on Parthian coinage and history. His publications include "Some New Coins of Vologases V" (1990); "Some Remarks Concerning the Parthian Gold Coins" (1991); "Recent Calendar Research" (1998); "Recent Research on Attributions to Sinatruces" (1999); "Recent Studies in Parthian History - Part I" (Dec. 2000); "Recent Studies in Parthian History - Part II " (Jan. 2001); "Recent Studies in Parthian History - Part III " (Feb. 2001); "A New date on Vardanes II Tetradrachms" (2001); "Parthian Calendars at Babylon and Seleucia on the Tigris" (2003); "The Bellaria Collection" (2003); "Genealogy and Coinage of the Early Parthian Rulers" (2004); "The Genealogy of the Parthian King Sinatruces (93/2-69/8 BC)" (2005); and "History and Coinage of Elymais During 150/149 - 122/121 BC"
(2005). A number of additional studies are now in press.The Maclaren Foundation and the Morteza Rastegar Endowment promote advanced research in Iranian studies and global peace projects. The Morteza Rastegar Endowment was founded in 2001 to honor the memory of Morteza Rastegar (1912-1999), widely known as the 'Father of Modern Mining' in Iran