BOOK PROJECT (in progress)

Choreographing the Iranian Diaspora: Dance and Spectatorship in the Era of War on Terror

Proposal selected for the Dance Studies Association’s First-time Author Mentorship Program (2019)

Choreographing the Iranian Diaspora: Dance and Spectatorship in the Era of War on Terror employs ethnography, discourse analysis, and performance analysis to examine the choreographic works by, and Euro-American media representations of, diasporic and immigrant Iranian dancers in North American and Western Europe. The genres the dancers in my study perform include Iranian dances (classical, regional, popular, and contemporary) and genres from the Euro-American dance canon (such as modern, postmodern, or contemporary dance and dance-theater). I query how, in the face of dominant War on Terror discourses, dance becomes an effective mode for these artists to reveal, destabilize, and at times reinforce geopolitical discourses that frame Iran and Iranian identities as racially Other. Choreographing the Iranian Diaspora is also concerned with how restrictions on dance in the Islamic Republic of Iran shape the politics of dance in the Iranian diaspora, and how these are entangled with Euro-American politics of immigration and empire. I contend that the discourses surrounding Iranian dancers and their choreographic works interpellate them into neocolonial paradigms of freedom and oppression that form the discursive economies of war and Euro-American state intervention. In the process, Iranian dancers are constructed as what transnational feminist scholar Inderpal Grewal calls “objects of rescue,” a subject position that I suggest is required for the incorporation of these otherwise marginalized immigrant Iranian subjects into the benevolent Euro-American state. Through this analysis, I develop a theory of what I call savior spectatorship, a multi-modal kinesthetic practice of engagement with Iranian dances and dancers that operates within transmedia environments produced and sustained through the uneven power relations of (neo)colonial saving enterprises.


PUBLICATIONS

Book Chapters

“Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancing Bodies as ‘Objects of Rescue’.” In The Futures of Dance Studies, eds. Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press). (Forthcoming 2020)

“{AR}Ticulations of the Self: A Conversation with Amir Baradaran.” In Performing Iran: Cultural Identity and Theatrical Performance, ed. Babak Rahimi (London and New York: I.B. Tauris Publishing). (Forthcoming 2020)

Web-based

“‘I’ve danced my whole life, but none of that is useful at all’: Netflix’s We Speak Dance (2018), Vulnerability and Collaborative Critiques.” With Melissa Blanco Borelli, Elena Benthaus, Claudia Brazalle, Royona Mitra, Cristina Rosa, Hanna Jarvinen, Celena Monteiro, Heather Rastovac-Akbarzadeh, and Meiver De la Cruz. In Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies: The Popular as the Political. Dance Studies Association, Vol. XXVVIII (2018): 54 – 60.

“Contending with Censorship: The Underground Music Scene in Urban Iran.” Intersections: A Journal of the Comparative History of Ideas 10, no. 2 (2009): 59 – 82.

Book Reviews

Review of Dance and Gender in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage by Ida Meftahi. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 14, no. 1 (2018): 83 – 85.


PH.D. DISSERTATION

“Performing Transnational Iranianness: The Choreographic Cartographies of Diasporic Iranian Dancers and Performance Artists.” University of California, Berkeley. Doctoral Program in Performance Studies.

Dissertation Committee: SanSan Kwan (Advisor), Catherine Cole, Minoo Moallem, and Munir Jiwa

Supported by the University of California Dissertation Year Fellowship

In “Performing (Trans)national Iranianness: The Choreographic Cartographies of Diasporic Iranian Dancers and Performance Artists,” I analyze performances by and conduct interviews with immigrant and diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists in the United States, Canada, and France. I examine how these artists employ dance and performance to imagine, contest, and (re)invent Iranianness, or what it means to be Iranian in diasporic spaces. In the face of hegemonic Euro-American representations that construct Iranians as racially Other, performance becomes a critical mode for Iranian immigrants to enact diverse forms of cultural citizenship in and across transnational spaces. Through what I call choreographic cartographies, my project develops a framework that theorizes the kinesthetic mapping of immigrant Iranian performances as practices that disrupt and/or sustain state and representational regimes of power. In the corporeal making of space, both on and off stage, immigrant Iranian dancers and performance artists reveal themselves as embodied maps of the racialized, gendered, classed, and aesthetic politics that travel with and (re)shape their performing bodies. In performances that range from nationalistic and nostalgic to subcultural and subversive, performers in my study draw from, reconstruct, and experiment with a wide range of Iranian movements, aesthetics, and social practices. As choreographic cartographies, these performances demonstrate that multiple geo-temporalities emerge through embodied memory and kinesthetic relationality to home and displacement. Asserting that these performances destabilize hegemonic national narratives that determine “diaspora” as a unidirectional, neoliberal space and time of arrival, this research accordingly contributes to scholarship that theorizes diaspora as an affective, corporeal, and multi-temporal practice of becoming.


INVITED TALKS (SELECT)

2019 - University of California, Riverside, Department of Dance, “Threat, Defense, and Absence: Ali Moini’s My Paradoxical Knives and the U.S. ‘Muslim Travel Ban’”

2019 - University of California, Los Angeles, Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, “Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancers as ‘Objects of Rescue’”

2019 - University of California, Davis, Cultural Studies Colloquium, “Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancers as ‘Objects of Rescue’”

2018 - University of California, Davis, Asian American Studies Brown Bag Series, “The Politics of Dance in the Iranian Diaspora”

2018 - Stanford University, Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity – Emancipatory Performance and Racial Formation Faculty Network, “Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancers as ‘Objects of Rescue’”

2018 - University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Theater Arts, Shahnameh and Beyond Symposium, Lecture and performance collaboration with Cynthia Ling Lee (Assistant Professor in Dance, UC Santa Cruz): “Bodies & Borders: Intercultural Exchanges between Kathak and Iranian Dance”

2018 - University of California, Berkeley – Dance Studies Working Group, “Sensorial Performatives: Choreographing the Contradictions of ‘New Generation’ Iranian Immigrants in Aisan Hoss’s The Pleasant Pain

2016 - Stanford University, Feminisms & Queerings Working Group, “Queering Diasporic and Secular Temporalities in Amir Baradaran’s ‘Choreographies of the Social’”


CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS (SELECT)

2019 - National Women’s Studies Association,“Queering the Neoliberal Gaze: Sensorial, Sonicity, and Islamic Repertoire in Aisan Hoss’s The Pleasant Pain,” lead organizer of panel: “Queering Il/legibility: Performing Otherwise Worlds”

2019 - American Studies Association, “Transaction, Temporality, and Queer Relationality: Amir Baradaran’s Marry Me to the End of Love,” invited to pre-organized panel: “Visioning Radical Queer Futures: Transformative Practices of the Transnational Middle East”

2019 - Dance Studies Association,“Threat, Defense, and Absence: Ali Moini’s My Paradoxical Knives and the U.S. ‘Muslim Travel Ban’,” lead organizer of panel: “Immersive Sites of Momentary Commons: Dancing Race, Sexuality, and Borders”

2018 - Ev’ry Body This Time: A Sexuality Studies Conference (University of California, Berkeley), “Transaction and Queer Temporalities: Amir Baradaran’s Marry Me to the End of Love,” invited to pre-organized panel: “Embodying Space: Towards A Queer Reading of Desire and Movement”

2018 - Pieces: Film & Media Studies Symposium (Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University), “(Not) Just a Piece of Cloth: Sensorial Performativity of the ‘Veil’ in Aisan Hoss’s Dance-Theater The Pleasant Pain

2018 - Association for Asian American Studies, “Transaction and Queer Temporalities: Amir Baradaran’s Marry Me to the End of Love,” lead organizer of panel: “West Asian American Performance, Art, and Politics”

2017 - American Society for Theatre Research, “Choreographing Émigré Bittersweetness: Embracing the Contradictions of Young Iranian Émigrés in Aisan Hoss’s The Pleasant Pain,” as part of the working group: “(Re)presenting Muslim Bodies of Performance”

2017 - Congress on Research in Dance & Society of Dance History Scholars Joint Conference, “Choreographing the Sensorial-Affective of Iranian Émigré Oral Histories,” co-organizer of panel: “Contemporary (Dis)placements: Choreographies of Émigré Bittersweetness, Colonial Retrograde, and Racialized Stillness”

2017 - Approaching Dance: Transdisciplinary Methodologies and Modalities of the Moving Body in Performance (CUNY, NYC), “Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancers as ‘Objects of Rescue’”

2016 - Congress on Research in Dance & Society of Dance History Scholars Joint Conference, “The Precarity of Enough-ness: Contemporary Iranian Dance & the Geo-Temporal Politics of Inclusion/Exclusion,”co-organizer of panel: “Dancing the Vulnerable, Illegible, and/or Impossible Migrant/Diasporic Subject”

2016 - Popular Culture Association & American Culture Association Joint Conference,““Be Brave, Be Bold, Be Free”: Iranian Dancer as Object of Rescue in the Film Desert Dancer

2015 - Congress on Research in Dance & Society of Dance History Scholars Joint Conference,“Does Iranian Dance Need Saving? The Politics of Preservation in the 1st International Iranian Dance Conference 2012”

Awarded the SDHS Graduate Student Travel Award

2014 - American Society for Theatre Research, “Queering Diasporic Temporalities in the Performance Works of Amir Baradaran,” as part of the working group: “Avant-Gardes, Otherwise: Performance, Aesthetics, and Experimentation in the Undercommons”

2014 - International Conference on Islamophobia Studies (UC Berkeley), “Fraught Frames of Freedom: French Representations of Émigré Iranian Dancer Afshin Ghaffarian”

2013 - Congress on Research in Dance & Society of Dance History Scholars Joint Conference, “Dislocated Temporalities and Queer Intimacies: The Participatory Performances of Amir Baradaran”

2012 - Congress on Research in Dance, “The ‘Reformances’ of Afshin Ghaffarian”

2011 - Dance/Body at the Crossroads of Cultures (Univ. of Nicosia, Cyprus), “From Raqaas to Raqsandeh: Modernity, Globalization, and Shifting Formations of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion in Iranian Dance Performance”

2010 - Performance Studies International, “Iran’s Transnational Cyber-Counterpublic: The Case of the Green Movement”