A lecture by Ida Meftahi (University of Maryland)
Sunday, April 14, 2019
121 Dodd Hall
Often compared to New York’s Broadway and Paris’s Champs-Élysées, Lalehzar District and its vicinity (which I dub Tulip Tehran) was a hub for experimentations in music and performing arts as well as new modes of business practices, socialization, and political expression partly due to its proximity to multitude of foreign embassies, diplomatic ventures, and missionary schools. The World War II occupation of Iran by the Allies in 1941 turned this district to a cultural war zone where the Allies followed their own agenda of public diplomacy. These activities ranged from screenings of American films and Soviet-sponsored theatrical performances to British Shakespearean soirées and English language classes in hope of substituting French with English in post war Iran. At the same time, Allied soldiers became a visible community in this area and resided in Lalehzar’s hotels, walked its streets, mingled in its bars, restaurants, and cinemas, danced in its cafés along with the “modernized” (mutajaddid) Tehran residents, and sometimes got into clashes with Iranian civilians. This zone also witnessed bread riots in response to the war-related famine; dozens of well-staged political demonstrations by the Tudeh Party; and the Tehran Conference (1943), which brought Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill to meet at the Russian Embassy, just opposite the Tudeh’s head office and its youth Club where many musical performances were held. Probing periodicals of various ideological persuasions, diplomatic sources, archival documents, and interviews, this article tries to capture the history of this important cultural landscape during the war by means of its soundscape. While seeking to reimagine this microcosm of modern Iran by listening to the sonic experience of its Earwitnesses, this presentation also sheds light on the multiplicity of musical, sonic, and performative trends which hit this critical zone of cultural production with an impact lasting for many decades to come.
Ida Meftahi is a historian specializing in modern Iran with a focus on the intersections of politics, gender, and performance (in its broader Goffmanian sense). She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University (2013-14) as well as visiting assistant professor of contemporary Iranian culture and society at the University of Maryland (2014-18). Her first book, Gender and Dance in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage was released in spring 2016 which won the prestigious Latifeh Yarshater Award for its original contribution to the literature on Iranian Women's Studies. Meftahi’s scholarship has been published in numerous scholarly journals and volumes including Islam and Popular Arts (2016), Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (2016), IranNameh (2016), International Journal of Middle East Studies (2016), and the bilingual Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire (2018). She is currently working on her second manuscript, a geo-political reading of Tehran’s historic Lalehzar district and its vicinity, while simultaneously directing the Lalehzar Digital Project.
Campus map is available HERE
Cost : Free and open to the public.
Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Iranian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, This event is made possible with the major support of the Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the Musa Sabi Term Chair of Iranian Studies.