• Founded
  • Seminar Number

The purpose of these monthly gatherings is to present and promote new research in Iranian studies from pre- Islamic times to the present. The seminar provides an opportunity for scholars and researchers in the greater metropolitan area to meet regularly and exchange views and discuss the topics of their research interests.

Mahnaz Moazami

Marisa McCrone

Angie Tao Henon

Meeting Schedule

09/26/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
The Deep Blue Beards of the Achaemenids: Hairy Matters in Studying Ancient Persian Art
Alexander Nagel, Fashion Institute of Technology


Recent scientific analysis and investigation into the surface of stone monuments at Persepolis and relief fragments from the site confirm that the now grey facades were once brightly painted. This talk provides an introduction into ongoing research and highlights recent results of these scientific investigations by focusing mainly on the role of facial hair and attitudes of official court art towards the presentation of rulers such as Darius I and Xerxes I. The talk also contextualizes research on pigments from the facades of monuments on sites such as Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Susa within a wider socio-cultural framework by addressing aspects of modern iconographical studies about official Achaemenid court art. A survey of approaches investigating the polychromies on ancient West Asian monuments and its modern reception highlights interesting historiographical aspects and helps us as we continue to engage with the making of the mineral universe of Achaemenid Persia.

10/26/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
The Making of Syriac Jerusalem Representations of the Holy City in Syriac Literature of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Catalin-Stefan Popa, Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, Bucharest


The lecture provides an overview of the history of Syriac Christianity and its cultural and spiritual interaction with the Holy City, along with its typological representations in theology and literature from late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Historical texts and manuscripts will be considered, including those related to Queen Shirin, the Christian wife of the Sasanian King Khosrow II (r. 590-628 CE), with an emphasis on the phenomenon of presence in Jerusalem and traces of the formation of Syriac Orthodox communities in the Holy Land, their traditions at holy sites, and aspects of liturgical ritual and sacred geography.

02/20/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
The Color Black: Enslavement and Erasure in Iran
Beeta Baghoolizadeh, Princeton University


The Color Black: Enslavement and Erasure in Iran (Duke University Press, 2024) examines questions concerning race, gender, historiography, and visuality through the lens of enslavement and abolition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book traces the domestic and royal enslavement of East Africans during the nineteenth century and the aftermath of abolition in Iran. Although enslavement was only formally abolished in Iran in 1929, Iranians popularly deny any history of slavery while still hanging onto racist anti-Black vestiges in their everyday culture. The Color Black: Enslavement and Erasure in Iran not only argues that Iranians had a dynamic understanding of race and racialization during the last period of legal enslavement, but also explains why the erasures surrounding these issues remain so pervasive. Through an analysis of archival, visual, and spatial sources, Beeta Baghoolizadeh unearths an intentionally hidden history within both institutional spaces and collective memory. Baghoolizadeh draws on photographs, architecture, theater, circus acts, newspapers, films, and more to document how the politics of visibility framed discussions around enslavement and abolition during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this way, Baghoolizadeh makes visible the people and histories that were erased from Iran and its diaspora. The Color Black has won the Scholars of Color First Book Award at Duke University Press.

03/19/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM

04/23/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
Heroes to Hostages: America and Iran, 1800-1988
Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, University of Pennsylvania


It is easy to forget, given the oppositional dynamic between Iran and the United States of the last 50 years, that these two countries once shared productive partnership. Tracing US-Iran relations over two turbulent centuries, Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet considers when and how this relationship went awry. With careful attention to social and cultural as well as diplomatic developments, Kashani-Sabet shows that the rift did not originate in flashpoints of crisis, like the 1953 coup or the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but was instead long in the making. Drawing from a wealth of English and Persian-language sources, many of which were previously unavailable or unacknowledged, this book considers the relationship from the vantage point of Iranian society and the experiences of an evolving Iran that strived to accommodate American and great power politics. Following these two nations through wars, decolonization, and revolution, Kashani-Sabet presents an invaluable history of a diplomatic rivalry that informs geopolitics to this day.