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09/15/08

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: IRANIAN STUDIES PROGRAMS - Keeping the Persian Light Shining

Source: PARSA Community Foundation
 

 

Universities around the world are carrying on the torch of telling the enduring story of Persian culture and modern-day Iran by engaging in the inquisitive and long-term research that can only happen in such an academic environment. This rigorous research is vitally important in the role it plays to help expand the discourse around Iran today from sound-bites and punditry to a more thoughtful and multifaceted examination of the nuances of Persian culture and modern Iranian issues.

 

This history of Iranian studies in the US is memorialized by a double-domed, Safavid-style mausoleum on the bank of the Zayandeh Rood in Isfahan. Here is the eternal home of Arthur Upham Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman, two American pioneers in the study of Persian cultural heritage.

Their efforts led to the establishment in 1925 of the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, which later became the Asia Institute in New York, and their unique programs of research, publications, exhibitions and educational instruction continued at the Institute and around the world until their retirement. Pope is often credited with being responsible for helping introduce the spirit of Iran's remarkable past to the world, as well as to the Iranians themselves. Today, the guardians of this heritage work quietly but steadfastly to keep it shining through the dust raised by conflicts and upheavals.

 

Since Pope's time, several Iranian studies departments have been founded in American universities with academic programs focused on the study of Iranian culture and the Persian language. While universities have recognized the importance of Iran and Persian culture and civilization, and have made investments of their own, the establishment of Iranian studies programs still depends on the good will of Iranian philanthropists. Growing and strengthening Iranian studies world-wide is a strategic and worthy endeavor with many needs to be filled, for example endowing Chairs in Iranian Studies programs, studying the ancient heritage of Iran, examining current issues and developing new undergraduate degree programs.

 

The Center for Iranian Studies is the foremost academic research center in Iranian studies in the United States with an active publication program. Founded in 1968 by Professor Ehsan Yarshater, the Center sponsors or arranges art exhibitions, film screenings, musical performances, and occasional lectures for students, staff and the community, but the main focus of its activities is an extensive program of scholarly publications and several related projects.

 

Encyclopedia Iranica is a major project of the Center for Iranian Studies, started in 1973 with the goal to create a comprehensive and authoritative English language encyclopedia about the history, culture, and civilization of Iranian peoples from prehistory to modern times. It is the standard encyclopedia of the academic discipline of Iranistics. Envisaged to be completed in some 26 volumes, the project has been supported chiefly by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

Columbia University launched a series of annual lectures in 1980, consisting of three to five seminars a year given by an established scholar in the field of Iranian studies, which are later elaborated and published in book form. The Center also awards grants, through the Persian Heritage Foundation, for scholarly works in Iranian studies, or translations of works of merit from Persian into English, French or German. So far, some twenty-five grants have been awarded.

 

 

 

Iranian and Persian Studies
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University



 

Harvard's department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations has two programs. The first one, the Persian program, covers New Persian language and literature and Islamic studies. For entry into this program, knowledge of Persian is assumed and some undergraduate work in Arabic and in the history and culture of the Islamic world is recommended.  Persian Studies concentrates upon the literature of New Persian, which includes the poetry and prose produced in Persian in Iran, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Empire from the tenth century to the present day. Persian Studies is typically paired with sub-fields such as Arabic, Islamic religion and culture, Indo-Muslim culture, Sufism, linguistics, philosophy, Near Eastern history, Turkish, and the history of art.

 

The second one, the Iranian program, primarily covers the pre-Islamic Iranian languages and literatures (notably, Avestan, Old and Middle Persian, and the Central Asian languages Sogdian and Khotanese) and religions (Zoroastrianism and Manicheism). It targets mainly students also interested in the ancient Near East, Old Indic, and comparative linguistics, and ancient religions. The Agha Khan Chair in Iranian Studies is today one of two chairs in Old Iranian studies in the Americas and one of a handful in the world. The department offers instruction in all the known pre-Islamic languages spoken by Iranians, as well as several modern languages and dialects. It also covers classes on the pre-Islamic religions of Iran, namely Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, as well as history and general civilization.
 
Iranian Studies Group
MIT
 
The Iranian Studies Group at MIT (ISG) is a non-partisan, non-profit, academic organization with the aim of promoting Iranian civil society through conducting research on issues related to Iranian native and expatriate societies. Their research projects focus on the cultural, social, economic, and political development of the Iranian society. By actively publicizing their findings in a format that is accessible for the community at large, the group aims to bridge the gap between research, public knowledge, and policy-making.

 
 

Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies
Division of International Comparative & Area Studies
Stanford University


Iran's culture, history, literature and society have long been the subject of scholarly interest. But in recent years, the country has also become of intense interest to policy makers and analysts. The Iranian Studies Program at Stanford fosters the interdisciplinary study of Iran, both as one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and as a modern nation which is pivotal in shaping the future of the crucial region of the Muslim Middle East. The program combines pedagogy, policy analysis, and research on all aspects of Iran's past, present, and future.
 

 

Bita Daryabari Endowment for Persian Studies
Stanford University

 

Established in 2008 under the auspices of the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Iranian Studies Program, an annual Bita Prize will be an awarded to an Iranian artist who achieves notable excellence in their field.  
 
 

International Society for Iranian Studies
UC Irvine

 

The Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture serves as a resource for the research, instruction and celebration of Persian history and culture. It sponsors conferences, symposia, book launches, film presentations, musical concerts and occasional lectures. The Center also draws on the vibrant local Iranian community for events aimed at the dissemination of Iranian arts and culture.

 

Although the Center itself does not offer a program of study, it works closely with UC Irvine's academic units where the desired areas of study are housed. Courses in Persian language can be taken through the Department of Classics; Persian music courses can be taken through the Department of Music; and the Department of Comparative Literature offers courses on modern Persian literature.

  
 

Iranian Studies Program
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA


 
 

The Iranian Studies program at UCLA, endowed with the Musa Sabi Term Chair of Iranian (one of the few chairs of Iranian Studies in the Americas), is one of the handful programs in the world that cover the entire spectrum of Iranian Studies, and offers courses embracing the languages and cultures of Pre-Islamic and Muslim Iran.

 

Among other distinctive strengths of the Iranian Studies program at UCLA is the focus on medieval Persian and Arabic philosophy, in particular, on Suhrawardi's Philosophy of Illumination. It is the program's aspiration to complement the pronounced philosophical orientation of Iranian Studies at UCLA with course offerings on the philosophical tenets of pre-Islamic Iran, as manifested by the Zoroastrian Middle Persian writings (Pahlavi texts).
Another focal point of the Iranian Studies program at UCLA is the study of Ancient Iranian history, making it one of the few institutions in the world offering, in conjunction with the Department of History at UCLA, regular lectures on the history of Ancient Elam, as well as on the Mede, Achaemenid, Arsacid, and Sasanian empires. There are also introductory lectures on the religions and religious practices in Ancient Iran, from Zoroastrianism to the so-called "Mazdakite movement."

 

The endowment of the Habib Levy Distinguished Visiting Professorship has led to the intensification of the Iranian Studies Program's focus on Judeo-Persian with the declared aim to train doctoral candidates for the purpose of invigorating this important, but neglected, field of inquiry.

 

 
 

The Oriental Institute
University of Chicago
 

 

The University of Chicago has been a center of ancient Near Eastern studies ever since its founding in 1891. Since its establishment in 1919, The Oriental Institute has sponsored archaeological and survey expeditions in every country of the Near East. The Oriental Institute conducted excavations in Iran in the 1930s and discovered thousands of clay tablets, fragments and seals of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which are now on loan from Iran to the institute. These 2,500 year old tablets are being studied but have not yet been fully documented. As a pending lawsuit threatens to seize these precious artifacts for private ownership, it is critical to create a public record of this prized part of Iranian heritage.
 
PARSA Community Foundation has awarded $50,000 to the Oriental Institute to help accelerate their efforts through the use of cutting edge technology to record the information contained in this extraordinary project and make it available to scholars worldwide.
 
 
 
The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Center for Persian Studies (RICPS)
University of Maryland 

 

 

The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Center for Persian Studies (RICPS), established in Fall 2004 as a unit within the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (SLLC) at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP), has a threefold mission. First, it seeks to inaugurate a world-class academic program in Persian language and literature, most broadly defined and inclusive of the Iranian world's millennia-old heritage as well as its modern and contemporary linguistic and literary traditions. Second, the Center fosters, throughout UMCP and beyond, the growth of teaching and scholarship in all aspects of the contemporary and classical cultures and civilizations within the Iranian world, and in all Persian-speaking societies, both contemporary (Iran, Afghanistan, Persian-speaking Central Asia and the emerging Persian-speaking diasporas and ethnic minorities the world over) and historical (Ancient Persia, Medieval Central Asia and Anatolia, pre-modern Caucasus, pre-colonial India, etc.). Third, it enhances mutual understanding between Americans of all ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds and those of Iranian and Persian-speaking parentage with the larger US society by interpreting Persian and Iranian cultures and civilizations now and into the foreseeable future.

 

Under the supervision of Dr. Ahmad Karimi Hakkak, the center has launched a full program of undergraduate major and minor courses of study in Persian, which includes the Persian-speaking millennia-old heritage as well as its modern and contemporary linguistic and literary traditions. At the same time, CPS offers English-language courses on various aspects of the Persian/ Iranian cultural area.

  
 

The Association For The Study of Persianates Societies
University of Minnesota Duluth



 

The Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS) is a nonprofit organization for researchers and scholars interested in the culture and civilization of the Persian-speaking societies and related areas in the Iranian civilizational area. It publishes the ASPS Newsletter twice a year (Editor, Rosemary Stanfield-Johnson, Department of History, University of Minnesota Duluth: rstanfie@d.umn.edu), and has brought some thirty visitors from Iran and Central Asia to take part in academic and cultural conferences and conventions since it began its Travel Fellowship Program in 1998. In 2003, the Association began the annual publication of a collection of scholarly articles: Studies on Persianate Societies, edited by Said Amir Arjomand and Manouchehr Kasheff.
 
 
 
University of Texas, Austin
Persian Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

 

Persian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin is a comprehensive program of Persian language and literature at all levels. The Program serves undergraduate students fulfilling foreign language requirements and majoring or minoring in Persian, Islamic Studies, or Middle Eastern Studies. The University of Texas Persian Program also serves graduate students concentrating or minoring in Persian in degree programs in Comparative Literature, Linguistics, and Middle Eastern Studies. The Department of Middle Eastern Studies offers B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees with a concentration in Persian.

 

The Texas Persian Studies program has a primary focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with special attention to the post-World War II period. Pre-modern language and literature receive attention as well. For example, such classical literary works as Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Sa'di's Golestan, and Hafez's Divan, are studied as requisite background to the appreciation of contemporary Persian literature and Iranian culture.

 

 

Persian and Iranian Studies program
Near Eastern Languages Center
University of Washington

 

Near Eastern Language Center (NELC) offers undergraduate degrees with a focus on Persian literature and Iranian studies. The graduate program consists of the M.A. degree in NELC and the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies. The M.A. program concentrates on classical and modern Persian literature and culture, including the poetry and prose of greater Iran from the tenth century A.D. to the present. The Ph.D. program has an interdisciplinary agenda that extends to other programs and schools at the University of Washington.

 

 

Persian Studies Classes

De Anza College

 

DeAnza College provides a model of how Persian Studies is taking hold at a community college. Located in Silicon Valley, California, the college teaches 22,000 students and offers courses leading to the Associate's Degree, certificates and transfer to four-year universities. With support from Iranian-American community leaders, DeAnza College now offers 30 units of instruction in Persian languages and history; these units count toward transfer to four year university. The courses attract not only Iranian-American and Afghan-American students, but also increasing numbers of American students who want to learn more about out Iran and the Persian-speaking world. The costs of instruction are paid for through funding from the State of California.
 
 
 

Additional Resources:
 
 
International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS)


 
ISIS was founded in 1967 as an academic society to support and promote the field of Iranian studies at the international level. As a private, nonprofit and nonpolitical organization, its objectives are to promote high standards of scholarship in the field, encourage the teaching of Iranian studies, and facilitate scholarly exchange among its international membership. It is affiliated with the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and is run by an elected and executive council.
 
As an independent, multidisciplinary community of over 500 scholars, students and researchers, part of ISIS' goal is to promote freedom of expression and the unrestricted pursuit of research, instruction and publication without fear of persecution. To achieve this aim, in 2005 ISIS organized the Committee for Intellectual and Academic Freedom (ISIS-CAIF) to monitor, document and publicize any infringement of Iranian academic and intellectual freedom.
  
 


American Institute of Iranian Studies
 
The American Institute of Iranian Studies (AIIrS) is a non-profit, non-governmental overseas research organization.  It is an academic consortium, of which the members are universities and museums in North America with interests in the study of Iranian culture and civilization. Its officers and committee members are scholars representing member institutions as Trustees who serve voluntarily in order to promote international scholarly exchange and independent research in Iranian Studies.
 
 
 

 

 

Iranian Studies e-List
 
The Iranian Studies e-List is a place to exchange information and ideas about the Iranian civilization and culture (History, Philology, Archaeology etc.).

The languages used in this group are Persian and English.
 
 


Please register another Iranian Studies program at PARSA Community Foundation's NGO Directory so that more scholars and community members can learn about the program's work.

... Payvand News - 09/15/08 ... --



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