Traveling Citizens in the Iranian Railway Space, 1900-1950

Despite its relatively marginal position within the Iranian public transportation system today, railway technology epitomized modernity in early twentieth-century Iran. In particular, the Trans-Iranian Railway project undertaken by the new Pahlavi state captured the imaginations of a broad segment of Iranian society. In this lecture, I will talk about spatial discourses and practices of the Iranian railway during the second quarter of the twentieth century in order to explore how railway technology was incorporated in the everyday lives of Iranians. How did the new middle class imagine railway technology at a time Reza Shah’s centralizing state was emerging? How did various groups of travelers use railway technology once the Trans-Iranian Railway opened? What implications did railway technology have on notions of nation and community? In exploring these questions, I will argue that the visibility of heterogeneity among diverse occupants of the Iranian railway space facilitated the formation of national and class identities among the Iranian modern middle class.

Event Information


Thursday, November 12th, 2015
5:00 – 7:00pm


Richard Ettinghausen Library
Kevorkian Centre
50 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

The Speaker

Mikiya Koyagi, New York University

Mikiya Koyagi is assistant professor at the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU. His research and teaching interests include: modern Iranian history; transnational history; borderlands history. His current research examines the impact of transportation technology, especially the railroad, on various segments of Iranian society such as nomads, laborers, pilgrims and tourists from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Aside from research agendas within Middle Eastern history, he also works on relations between Japan and the Islamic world since the mid-nineteenth century.