March 23, 2016, 5:30pm
PERSOPHILIA | Art and Literature Series Event
Presenter: Dr. Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet (Univeristy of Pennsylvania), Dr. Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University) and Drucilla Cornell J.D. (Rutgers University)
Location: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street New York, NY, 10018

Celebrating the publication of the ground breaking new volume Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Sceneinfluential and  prolific writer and cultural critic Hamid Dabashi is joined by acclaimed philosopher and feminist theorist Drucilla Cornell and celebrated historian and author Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet to converse about the evolution of Persian culture and how it has inspired Western culture through the ages.

From the Biblical period and Classical Antiquity to the rise of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, aspects of Persian culture have been integral to European history. A diverse constellation of European artists, poets, and thinkers have looked to Persia for inspiration, finding there a rich cultural counterpoint and frame of reference. Interest in all things Persian was no passing fancy but an enduring fascination that has shaped not just Western views but the self-image of Iranians up to the present day.

Persophilia maps the changing geography of connections between Persia and the West over the centuries and shows that traffic in ideas about Persia and Persians did not travel on a one-way street.

How did Iranians respond when they saw themselves reflected in Western mirrors? Expanding on Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere, and overcoming the limits of Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi answers this critical question by tracing the formation of a civic discursive space in Iran, seeing it as a prime example of a modern nation-state emerging from an ancient civilization in the context of European colonialism. The modern Iranian public sphere, Dabashi argues, cannot be understood apart from this dynamic interaction.

Persophilia takes into its purview works as varied as Xenophon’s Cyropaedia and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Handel’s Xerxes and Puccini’s Turandot, and Gauguin and Matisse’s fascination with Persian art. The result is a provocative reading of world history that dismantles normative historiography and alters our understanding of postcolonial nations.

Copies of Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene (Harvard University Press, October 2015) are available for purchase and signing at the end of event.

Hamid Dabashi is an internationally renowned cultural critic and award-winning author, his books and articles have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Danish, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Urdu and Catalan. He is also the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia UniversityHis books include Authority in Islam(1989); Theology of Discontent (1993); Truth and Narrative (1999); Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future(2001); Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2000); Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema (2007); Iran: A People Interrupted (2007); and an edited volume, Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema (2006). His most recent works are Islamic Liberation Theology: Resisting the Empire (Routledge, 2008) and Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror (Transaction Publishers, 2009). He received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He wrote his dissertation on Max Weber's theory of charismatic authority with Philip Rieff (1922-2006), the most distinguished Freudian cultural critic of his time. Professor Dabashi has taught and delivered lectures in many North American, European, Arab, and Iranian universities.

Prior to beginning her life as an academic, Drucilla Cornell was a union organizer for a number of years. She worked for the UAW, the UE, and the IUE in California, New Jersey, and New York. She played a key role in organizing the conference on deconstruction and justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1989, 1990, and 1993-a conference at which Jacques Derrida is thought by many to have made his definitive philosophical turn toward the ethical. In addition, she has worked to coordinate Law and Humanities Speakers Series with the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and the Committee on Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. She has been a senior fellow at A.D. Whitehouse, Cornell University, and a Mellon fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Professor Cornell has been the director of the Ubuntu Project in South Africa an organization that both researches into and advocates for the importance of indigenous values in the new dispensation. She held the National Research Foundation chair in Indigenous values, and the dignity jurisprudence and the living customary law from 2007 until 2010 which was sponsored by the University of Cape Town. Professor Cornell is also a produced playwright whose plays have been produced in New York, Atlanta and Boca Ratonb Florida. She is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science of Rutgers University's School of Arts and Sciences. She specializes in women and politics and political theory. Professor Cornell earned her B.A. in philosophy and mathematics from Antioch College in 1978, and her J.D. from UCLA Law School in 1981.

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet is the Robert I. Williams Term Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she has taught for the last fifteen years. She is also the director of Penn's Middle East Center. She received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar. She completed her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history at Yale University. Dr. Kashani-Sabet teaches courses on various aspects of modern Middle Eastern history, including ethnic and political conflicts, gender and women's issues, popular culture, diplomatic history, revolutionary ideologies, and general surveys. She is the author of several books, including Frontier Fictions: Shaping the Iranian Nation, 1804-1946 (Princeton University Press, 1999) that analyzes the significance of land and border disputes to the process of identity and nation formation, as well as to cultural production, in Iran and its borderlands. It pays specific attention to Iran's shared boundaries with the Ottoman Empire (later Iraq and Turkey), Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf region. Her recent book Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran (Oxford University Press, 2011), which received the 2012 book award from the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies for outstanding scholarship in the field of Middle East gender studies.  She has also written several fictional pieces including Martyrdom Street. Dr. Kashani-Sabet is currently completing a book on Iran and America, entitled From Heroes to Hostages: A History of US-Iranian Relations, 1800-2015.

is currently completing a book on Iran and America, entitled: "From Heroes to Hostages: A History of US-Iranian Relations, 1800-2015. 

Conceived and organized by Arezoo Moseni, and in its sixth year, Art and Literature Series events bring forth pollinations across the literary and visual arts with readings and discussions by acclaimed artists, authors and poets.

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