Symposium Postponed: Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora

Due to concerns regarding the spread of the Covid-19, this symposium has been postponed.

Persian Studies Program at UNC-Chapel Hill Presents


Artist: Minoo Emami Title: Woven for Him Date: 2014 Medium: Mix Media Painting, Dimensions: 36” x 24” inches

Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora

March 28, 2020

FedEx Global Education Center
Room 1005
UNC-Chapel Hill

This one-day symposium is an attempt to provide a safe space for public discussions of the nuances around discourses of love and desire in modern Iran, challenging and contributing to the dominant discourses on key topics. From their mundane to their sublime forms, love and desire have played a central role in various discourses in modern Iran. From romantic epics to ghazals, and from arranged marriages to white marriages, and from companionate love to contemporary cohabitations, desire is undoubtedly one of the most important theoretical topics for scholars. This symposium brings together a range of scholars from different disciplines focusing on modern Iran to analyze the wide variety of ways in which love and desire have been represented, imagined, and discursively constructed. Participants will address discourses of love and desire and revisit those discourses considering the implications that they have for larger theoretical debates. Selected papers of the symposium will be published in the book series titled, Sex, Marriage, and family in the Middle East, edited by Janet Afary and Claudia Yaghoobi, published by Bloomsbury. Other selected papers will appear as a special issue in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, Ph. D – Roshan Institute Assistant Professor in Persian Studies, for information about the symposium contact Dr. Yaghoobi at


The American Institute of Iranian Studies, UNC Persian Studies Program, UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, the Department of Asian Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Associate Provost of Global Affairs, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, the Department of History, the Department of Religious Studies, the Department of Women and Gender Studies, The Department of Geography, The Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill University Libraries, The Countering Hate Initiative

Click on Abstracts and Bios to access more info on the speakers and their papers.

Horner-Jarrahi Keynote Speaker (made possible thanks to the Horner Jarrahi Persian Studies Speaker Series Endowment at the University Libraries)

Janet Afary (and Roger Friedland), Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity, and Professor of Religious Studies, the University of California, Santa Barbara
Title: Sectarian and Gender Attitudes Towards Mut’ a/Urfi Marriages in Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia

Panel Presenters

Mostafa Abedinifard, Assistant Professor without review of Persian Literary Culture and Civilization, the Department of Asian Studies, the University of British Columbia
Title: “Negotiating (Un)Desirability: Non-Normative Bodies and the Patriarchal Economy of Power in Modern Iranian Fiction and Film”

James Barry, Research Fellow at Deakin University in Australia
Title: “Intermarriage and Ethnic Boundaries in Iran”

Nasim Basiri, Ph.D. Student, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Oregon State University
Title: “The Politics of Love in Iran: Implications of “Religious Hypocrisy of Clerics” in the form of Temporary Marriages”

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw, Associate Professor of Persian Literature, University of Oxford Title: “Shirin’s Equal, Leyli’s Rival: allusion, embodiment, and archetypal stand-off in the poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad”

Alexander Jabbari, Farzaneh Family Assistant Professor of Persian Language and Literature, the University of Oklahoma
Title: “Race Against Time: Racial Temporality and Sexuality in Modern Iran”

Pardis Mahdavi, Director of the School for Social Transformation, Arizona State University
Title: “Talking About a Revolution: Re-Visiting Discourses of Love and Sexuality as Politics in Modern Iran”

Ehsan Sheikhalharam, Ph.D. Student Teaching Fellow, Department of Religious Studies, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title: “Crumbling of Spatial Boundaries and the Collapse of the Intimate Domain in Farhadi’s Cinema”

Mahdi Tourage, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Social Justice and Peace Studies at King’s University College, London, Ontario
Title: The Supreme Leader and I: Erotic Desire in Iranian Female Poets Reading their Poems for the Supreme Leader of Iran

Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam, a PhD candidate in comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst
Title: “Girls for Sale: The Politics of Child Marriage in Iran”

Leila Zonouzi, a PhD candidate in Global Studies, the University of California at Santa Barbara Title: “Integration in Diaspora: A Study of Interracial Partnerships in Iranian Diasporic Literature”

Roundtable Remarks

Janet Afary, the Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Title: “The Place of Love in Contemporary Politics and Society in Iran”

Nayereh Tohidi, Professor and former chair of the Gender & Women Studies Department and currently, the founding director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at California State University, Northridge
Title: “The trajectory of change and continuity in the past 40 years in attitude, norms, and discourses toward love, marriage, sexuality, and body politics”

Mehrangiz Kar, Writer, Attorney, and Activist specializing in women’s rights and family law
Title: “Laws against Love and Loving in Iran”