Iranian Studies Initiative
Iran is a major player in today’s Middle East and in the Muslim world with important demographic, geopolitical, religious, economic and cultural characteristics important to the region and globally. It has vast natural and human resources and growing military and industrial capabilities. Iranian society witnessed within a century the first constitutional revolution and the first Islamic revolution in the Middle East; the latter invoking a paradigmatic shift throughout the Muslim world. Iran also is conscious of its ancient civilization, historical continuity, and the place of Persian language, literature and thought within a wider cultural “Persianate” domain from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Indian subcontinent to Anatolia, Kurdistan and Shi`ite Iraq.
The Western world has come to recognize the significance of Iran for security concerns, for Islamic radicalism, energy needs, and most recently its nuclear program. As a major preoccupation of the American foreign policy, it is a significant factor in dealings with Europe, China, Russia, India, and the Arab world. Iran is also important because there is an Iranian-American community that is secular in outlook and appreciative of values of modernity. Historically, Persian civilization posed as the “other” to the ancient Greco-Roman past. It was also the most prominent contributor to the genesis and development of the Islamic civilization in virtually all areas from philosophy, theology, and law to literature, statecraft, humanities, art, music, food, and material life. It was also a breading ground for all forms of dissent within the religious sphere and outside.
The Iranian Studies Initiative at the Yale MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies promotes study of Iran, Afghanistan and the Persian cultural sphere, with emphasis on regional and international affairs, domestic political developments as well as society, religion, culture, law, medicine and public health, economy, and environment. The ISI strives to reflect diverse views on security and foreign policy as well as nongovernmental voices and views of deprived groups such as women, intellectual descanters, religious and ethnic minorities, and nonconformists. It also encourages study of Iran and Afghanistan within the broader context of the Middle East, and especially in relation to the neighboring Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Persian Gulf, as well as Pakistan, India, China, and Central Asia.
The ISI also encourages studies of the emergent Iranian-American, Iranian-Canadian and various Iranian-European identities as they evolved over the past half a century and identify these communities’ contributions in business, science and academia. The state of scholarship in the field of Iranian Studies and ways of expanding it as well as the ways and means of making study of Persian culture and languages (ancient and modern) more accessible are among the ISI’s other objectives. These are to be achieved through curricular and academic means as well as extra-curricular activities involving Yale alumni and the faculty, the Iranian-American community in Connecticut, and an impressive number of Iranian academics in various universities in Connecticut and neighboring states.
ISI aims at the following objectives:
a) Exchange of scholars with Iran and Afghanistan as well as with Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia;
b) Visiting faculty specializing in the region to offer courses within the Yale Collage (modern Middle East Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Women and Gender Studies, Anthropology, History) and in the professional schools;
c) Short and medium term visitors: journalists, NGO and Human Rights activists, and intellectuals (writers, poets, etc.).
d) Promoting appointment of regular faculty in collaboration with departments, including an appointment in Persian literature at Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
e) Strengthening the library holdings in Persian and support for the existing Persian bibliographer and collection acquisition;
f) Research projects on issues vital to the region and on novel scholarly topics: economic, sociological, health and medicine, historical, literature and language, and international affairs.
g) Translation projects from English and from Persian as well as Dari, Tajik, and Kurdish.
h) Conferences, workshops and lecture series in collaboration with other Yale centers and councils.
i) Scholarships at undergraduate and graduate levels earmarked for the study of Iran in the Faculty of Art and Sciences at Yale and in professional schools (Medical School, Public Health, Forestry and Environmental Studies, Economic Growth Center, and Child Study Center).
j) Further recognition of Iranian Culture among the student body and facilitating the growth of Iranian-American and Iranian student body as part of Yale’s plan for internationalization.
Organization and Resources
Yale faculty in History, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Political Science, Religious Studies, Anthropology and in the School of Medicine and School of Public Health provide the core support and supervision.
Yale regularly offers courses in Iranian History, Modern Persian language (three years), Ancient and Middle Persian, Shi`ism and mysticism, and Persian culture. The Council on Middle East Studies also holds frequent scholarly and outreach programs related to Iran and collaborates with wide range of Iran specialists in other universities and institute of higher education in Connecticut and throughout the East Coast.
The ISI strives to increase interdisciplinary and interregional collaboration primarily within the Council on Middle East Studies but with other Councils (South Asian, East Asian, and European Studies), with other programs at MacMillan Center (Central Asia ISI, Cross Border ISI, Hellenic Studies, Agrarian Studies, Order Conflict Violence, and Ethnicity, Race and Migration) as well as with the Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale World Fellows, Frontier Studies Program, and others.
See also activities of the Iranian Studies Initiative.