Iran and the Turn of the Century: International Conference on Contemporary Iranian Studies
On the 10th anniversary of its establishment, Iran Academia organized the second international conference on contemporary Iranian studies. The theme of this conference was “Iran and the Turn of the Century; Experiences, Lessons, and Perspectives,” and it was held in cooperation with the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and sponsored by the Municipality of The Hague and Zamaneh Media.
Iran Academia is the first Persian language online university for social sciences and humanities, which started in 2012. Violations of the right to education, academic freedom, and lack of university autonomy in social sciences in Iran urged a group of researchers and academics to create the first online university for social science in Persian in the Netherlands. Iran Academia does not charge tuition.
The conference was held on August 26 and 27, 2022, at the International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. The main topics of the lectures were women’s issues, human rights, social movements, foreign policy, domestic policy, education, and the environment.
“The existential philosophy of Iran Academia is summarized in two points: first the lack of academic freedoms and the other is the violation of the right to education. Ten years ago, we saw these two things. During the period of the “controversial elections” (2009 Iranian presidential election), the second cultural revolution happened in Iran.” Alireza Kazemi, one of the founders of Iran Academia, told Zamaneh.
“After the crackdown on university student movements in the 1990s and early 2000s and the Green Movement (2009–2010), increasing restrictions were put on universities. The authorities singled out the dissident students and forced professors to retire, which became a common practice in Iran’s educational system,” Kazemi added.
The International Conference on Contemporary Iranian Studies was held in English and Farsi. Tens of Iranian and international professors from prestigious universities around the world, researchers, media, and individuals interested in the humanities and social studies participated in the conference. The conference sought to create a multilateral dialogue between academics, graduates, and audiences in the field of social sciences and the humanities outside of Iran. After the 1979 Revolution, the emigration of many dissident intellectuals created a diverse generation of researchers, thinkers, and university professors in the humanities. This conference was created as an opportunity for these researchers to interact with each other outside of Iran.
Farah Karimi, a member of the Senate of the Netherlands from the GreenLeft Party, also participated in the conference. In an interview with Zamaneh, she stated that Iran Academia is a valuable platform for Iran and Iranians.
“The [first and] most important… reason for the importance of Iran Academia is that it has created a possibility for those who do not have access to higher education, especially for the young people who are inside Iran and want to be connected with the latest research and thought in the humanities,” Karimi explained.
According to Karimi, Iran Academia is a network within itself that has been able to bring together Iranians who are researching or teaching at the top levels of human sciences in different countries and use their knowledge and connect them to students inside Iran.
In one of the conference panels, Zamaneh’s book “In the Middle, on the Edge: Essay’s on Iran’s Middle Class Poor” was discussed. During the panel, Nazli Kamvari, Iman Ganji, and Mohammad Reza Nikfar, three of the book’s authors, and Asef Bayat, a professor of sociology of the University of Illinois, discussed Iran’s Middle Class Poor. “In the Middle, on the Edge: Essays on Iran’s Middle Class Poor,” which was edited by Nazli Kamvari and includes 11 essays, has been published in both Persian and English. The book is accessible for free in English and Farsi.
In 2019, Iran Academia also held a conference entitled “The Iranian Revolution After 40 Years: Discontinuities and Continuities.” During the conference professors and researchers from the diaspora discussed the role of women in the path towards democracy, the challenge of the clergy, the crisis of social movements, and the roots of the 1979 Revolution.
Video recordings of the panel discussions at this year’s conference will be published in the coming weeks on the Iran Academia website and will be available to anyone who is interested.