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As a native of Iran, who was born and raised in Tehran as a member of the Armenian Photo on 9-5-20 at 4.17 PMminority population, went to college as first-generation and arrived in the U.S. to continue my education, my personal background has prepared me with the knowledge of diversity, minority populations, and the ability to work with individuals from underrepresented communities.

My research project emerged out of a crucial moment in my life. When I first moved to the U.S., I was unaware of the fact that my Persian-Armenian identity would put me in the category of the oppressed as a Middle Eastern woman in Western society. Everyone I met expressed concerns about my victimization in Iran and wanted to liberate me. I was frustrated with Western misperceptions of Middle Eastern women. I did not see myself as a victim; I rather viewed myself as an autonomous woman who had managed to be an active agent of her life and future.

This thought-provoking moment led me to think more deeply about my home country and Western perceptions about it. I took it on myself to deconstruct these misrepresentations through my research and teaching.

Working on the topic of socio-cultural others for my doctoral dissertation, I focused on the medieval period to illustrate that historically medieval Iranian society was an egalitarian one, accepting of human diversity. This project turned into my first book, Subjectivity in ‘Attar, Persian Sufism, and European Mysticism (Purdue UP 2017). Furthering my investigation of the inclusion of members of minorities and socio-cultural Others in Iranian culture, for my second book, Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Persian Literature and Film (Cambridge UP 2020), I focused on the representation of sigheh women, placed at the margins of society, in modern Persian fiction and film.

My next project is a labor of love characterized by my own multiple consciousness, diasporic position, and transnationalism. An Armenian who was born in Iran and moved to the U.S. in her early 30s, my understanding of cultural identity moves beyond the national and the nation-state to a more transnational one which departs from my ancestors who were forcibly relocated to Iran and went through the pressures of assimilation in their host nation. Having lived 30 years with this double consciousness, I moved to the U.S. not because of direct forces of resettlement but due to the indirect impacts of globalization and the global economy in addition to the problematics of living on the margins of Iran. However, the impact of my relocation on my identity formation and consciousness was different from my ancestors; I embodied multiple consciousnesses and a hybrid identity – one that is settled in a host nation but is simultaneously spiritually affiliated with the homeland. In my transnationalism today in the U.S., as someone who is twice a stranger, my homeland is both Armenia and Iran. In this way, my transnationalism challenges earlier interpretations of assimilation to the mainstream society which were intertwined with borders, territories, and nation-building; mine is a transnational one which extends beyond the delimitations of one unified nation, geography, language, or territory. The idea for this project therefore emerged out of my lived experiences; however, took further scholarly shape in 2016 when I presented a paper on the topic in the Association of Iranian Studies and published it subsequently. This first article became the cornerstone.

My research agenda takes root in my enthusiasm to encourage students to think critically across cultures and disciplines. I believe that literature can be a means to familiarize students with socio-cultural and literary backgrounds of underrepresented cultures. Literature can be the site for taking actions and for giving birth to new ideas. Therefore, in my research and teaching, I aim to resolve stereotypical representations of Iran and to familiarize readers with Persian culture and literature. Both my research and teaching are geared towards helping future generations in developing an attitude, which transcends all dichotomies and biases. Coming from a diverse background myself, I am well equipped with the required tools, knowledge and attitude to prepare my students to embrace all humans.

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