About the Iranian Studies Initiative

Our Mission

The mission of the Iranian Studies Initiative is to create a home at NYU for academics, intellectuals and public figures committed to deepening our understanding of Iranian history, society and culture. The Initiative will organize events that reflect a broadly interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the study of Iran. Ultimately, the ISI’s mission is to create an Iranian Studies Institute at NYU.

Iranian Studies Initiative Steering Committee

Ali Mirsepassi


Ali Mirsepassi is Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. From 2002 to 2007, he held several administrative posts in the Gallatin School Deans’ Office, including Interim Dean. As a Carnegie Scholar (2007-2009), his research project examined Western influence on political Islam. His teaching interests include social theories of modernity, comparative and historical sociology, sociology of religion, Middle Eastern societies and cultures, and Islam and social change. He is the author of several works, the most recent being Democracy in Modern Iran (NYU Press, 2010) Professor Mirsepassi has received numerous awards and grants for his work, including the Iranian Best Researcher of the Year in 2001.

Arang Keshavarzian

Committee Member

Arang Keshavarzian earned his PhD from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in 2003 and joined the Department of Middle East & Islamic Studies in 2009. His research and teaching interests include the politics and political economy of the modern Middle East, Iranian history, and transnational approaches to the Persian Gulf. His book, Bazaar and State in Iran traces the multiple and intersecting transformations in relations within and beyond the Tehran Bazaar under the Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic Republic. Among his publications are journal articles and book chapters on clergy-state relations, smuggling, authoritarian survival, and geopolitics and geo-economics.

Yass Alizadeh

Committee Member

Yass teaches Persian Language and Literature at NYU. She has a PhD in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from The University of Connecticut, a Masters of Arts from the University of Toronto, a Masters of Arts from Tehran University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. Her research focuses on the keen layering of ethical themes within the ambiguously coded language of rewritten folktales in 20th century Iran, the intricate link between politics and fiction, and the critical role of metaphors in the political reframing of popular oral tales. Yass has been a Practitioner in Residence at The University of New Haven where she has taught English and launched Persian as a Second Language. She has taught English Literature at Middlesex Community College and Persian at The University of Connecticut.

Mehdi Faraji

Committee Member

Mehdi Faraji is a PhD student at the department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU.He has also earned a PhD in Cultural Sociology from the University of Tehran in 2010. Mehdi was visiting scholar at the Department of Sociology at Harvard University in 2011. He is a member of The Association for the Study of Persianate Societies’ Board of Directors and ASPS newsletter editor.
Mehdi is interested in everyday life, cultural representation, religion, and socio-cultural changes in modern Iran. His dissertation will focus on the politics of masculinities in post-Revolutionary Iran. He has published journal articles on Westoxification, elite discourses, religiosity, and civilizing process.

Ayse Baltacioglu-Brammer

Committee Member

Ayse Baltacioglu-Brammer is a specialist in Middle Eastern history with a focus on early modern Ottoman and Safavid Empires.  The questions surrounding the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict during the early modern period and its enmeshment with issues of political, religious, and fiscal legitimacy in inter-confessional and inter-imperial contact zones is at the core of my research interests. Her current book project, tentatively titled Sect and Sectarianism in the Early Modern Middle East: Ottoman Sunnism, Safavid Shiism, and the Qizilbash, explores the Sunni-Shiite divergence in the early modern period, not merely as a religiously derived, but as a meticulously carried out geo-political and fiscal battle that formed the base of the sectarian conflict in the region.

Arash Azizi

Committee Member

Arash Azizi is a writer, translator and scholar living in New York City. His writings and commentary on politics, history and cinema have appeared in numerous publications. As a doctoral student in New York University, he researches the history of transnational links that bound Iran and the Arab World to each other in the framework of the broader Global Cold War. About a dozen of his book-length translations have appeared in Iran and abroad.