Pardis Mahdavi

Pardis Mahdavi, PhD is currently Dean of Social Sciences and Director of the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University (ASU). Prior to joining ASU, she was the Acting Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Before coming to Denver, she was at Pomona College from 2006-2017 where she most recently served as professor and chair of anthropology, director of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, as well as Dean of Women. Her research interests include academic freedom, diversity and inclusion in higher education, gendered labor, human trafficking, migration, sexuality, human rights, youth culture, transnational feminism and public health in the context of changing global and political structures. She has published five single authored books and one edited volume in addition to numerous journal and news articles. She has been a fellow at the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council on Learned Societies, Google Ideas, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Recent Articles and Interviews

The Syntax of Belonging: On the Profound Connection Between Identity and Language

I decided to write my new book, Hyphen, after years of struggling to find belonging. I’m a hyphenated American. Iranian-American to be exact. And for much of my life, I tried to fit on one side of the hyphen or the other. But I failed over and over again. I was too Iranian in America, too American in Iran. And then in 2007 I was kicked out of my ancestral homeland of Iran after writing a book about sexual politics in the Islamic Republic. I was stripped of my citizenship, told never to return.

Iran’s Presidential Election Threatens to Undo Decades of Feminist Organizing

A closed Iran led by Ebrahim Raisi—known for squashing any and all attempts at human rights—will be a devastating blow to feminist organizing. Iran’s presidential election—or what some feminist activists are referring to as a “selection”—has cast a dark shadow on the feminist movement in the Islamic Republic. It started with the selection of candidates earlier this year. Over 130 women (and almost 1,500 men) put their names forward to be considered for the election. In April, the Council of Gu

When Hate Attacked My Home —

My mother was late for work again. Just another warm spring day in Minnesota, 1985. After bringing us home from school, she asked if we could get out and walk to the front door so that she didn’t have to pull into the garage. As her blue Volvo crept away, my little brother and I slowly walked up to the front door hand in hand. (I was seven and he was only four.) We were careful not to step on the cracks in the pavement—a game we loved to play, where we pretended that they contained molten lava.

Hyphen: Pardis Mahdavi in Conversation with Steven Beschloss | Arizona State University

Changing Hands Bookstore presents Pardis Mahdavi, author of "Hyphen," dean of social sciences and director of the School of Social Transformation at ASU in a virtual event on Monday, June 21, 2021 at 6 p.m. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate has been a central point of controversy since before the imprinting of the first Gutenberg Bible. And yet, the hyphen has persisted, bringing and bridging new words and concepts. "Hyphen" follows the story of the hyphen from antiquity – the word "hyphen" is

We Should Be Hyphenating the Fuck Out of Everything

We Should Be Hyphenating the Fuck Out of Everything In the summer of 2007, Pardis Mahdavi stood before a podium at the University of Tehran and prepared to speak about the Iranian sexual revolution. She'd been studying the cultural movement for the last seven years, and she wanted to go live with the results before her book on the topic, Passionate Uprisings, published in the United States. With her anthropological work, Mahdavi, whose parents had immigrated to the U.S. while she was still in

Pardis Mahdavi with Rich Smith (livestream)

A Social and Personal History of the Hyphen To hyphenate or not to hyphenate, that is the question. It has been a central point of controversy since before the imprinting of the first Gutenberg Bible. And yet, the hyphen has persisted, bringing and bridging new words and concepts. In conversation with Rich Smith, Associate Editor of The Stranger, academic and anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi shares an introduction to the hidden life of an ordinary thing—the hyphen. With support from her book Hyph

26: Hyphen (with Pardis Mahdavi) – Because Language

It joins, it divides. It’s disappearing in some places, but it’s stronger than ever in others. For this episode, we’re talking to Professor Pardis Mahdavi, author of Hyphen, an exploration of identity and self as it concerns this confounding little mark. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our patrons! They give us show ideas, valuable feedback, and the wherewithal to provide transcripts for all our shows. Become a Patreon supporter yourself and get access to bonus episodes and mo

Lit Hub Daily: May 28, 2021

• “Beach books” contain multitudes… Here are the 75 nonfiction books you should read this summer, according to us. | Lit Hub • “To many writers, Ramallah is an ideal, a dream, a promise.” Maya Abu Al-Hayat on the thriving artistic life of the Palestinian city. | Lit Hub • INTERVIEW WITH A JOURNAL: Meghan O’Rourke shares everything you need to know about The Yale Review, the oldest literary journal in the US. | Lit Hub • Amanda M. Fairbanks on the mysterious sinking of the Wind Blown—which went

New York’s Hyphenated History

Hyphen , she explores the way hyphenation became not only a copyediting quirk but a complex issue of identity, assimilation, and xenophobia amid anti-immigration movements at the turn of the twentieth century. In the excerpt below, Mahdavi gives the little-known history of New York’s hyphenation debate. In the midst of an unusually hot New York City spring in 1945, Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran was riding the metro downtown to a meeting at City Hall. Curran, the former commissioner of immigr

Women's Movements Can Save the World—by Learning From Each Other

That was the title question posed, on International Women’s Day, to two Arizona State University experts on women’s leadership at a Zócalo/ASU Center on the Future of War event. “In a nutshell, I would say yes,” said Pardis Mahdavi, the dean of social sciences in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and an anthropologist whose scholarship covers gendered labor, migration, sexuality, human rights, transnational feminism, and public health. She said that transnational

Commentary: The Proud Boys Can’t Own The Underground: Here’s Why

Historically, underground movements have been dominated by various resistance movements. The women’s suffrage movements, the allied resistance networks during World War II, and the Green Movement in Iran all shared a common goal — bring about change for the greater good. But some argue the “underground” provided a haven for far-right groups to propagate. Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences at ASU, has spent her career studying underground movements. In the essay, “The Proud Boys Can’t Own t

25. International Women’s Day and a Feminist Foreign Policy (with Karen Greenberg, Gayle Lemmon, Pardis Mahdavi and Lyric Thompson)

It’s time to check in on and reimagine the international status of women and girls. What would a feminist foreign policy agenda look like in the United States? How does it look globally? How does it take into account vulnerable women and girls? What hope exists for ending inequality based on race, sex and gender? What differences do women and girls make as social, political and economic motivators for change? Have a comment, guest recommendation, or just want to say hi? Drop us a line at onthei

Arizona State University Dean of Social Sciences Pardis Mahdavi

I'm actually writing an article on Persian New Year, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks. It's called Nowruz. It's our biggest holiday of the year. It's a secular holiday, and it follows the Spring Equinox, so we always celebrate it the moment that it turns spring. And up until the week leading up to and the week after we have all these festivals. My favorite is the fire jumping festival, where we put a bunch of fires out in our backyard. When I was in California, we would do it on the

Can women’s movements save the world?

ASU's Center on the Future of War will host forum on transnational feminist movements to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021 Women around the world are realizing there is strength in numbers when they have shared challenges. In the last decade in particular, international feminist movements have been tackling women’s rights issues and bringing reform and systemic change to issues surrounding equity, power, privilege, health care and social justice. Arizona State University’s Center on Hyphen (Object Lessons) (9781501373909): Mahdavi, Pardis, Schaberg, Christopher, Bogost, Ian: Books

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate has been a central point of controversy since before the imprinting of the first Gutenberg Bible. And yet, the hyphen has persisted, bringing and bridging new words and concepts. Hyphen follows the story of the hyphen from antiquity – "Hyphen” is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “to tie together” – to the present, but also uncovers the polit

The Global Women's Movements That Helped Kamala Harris Rise

As Kamala Harris readies to take the oath of office this January, she does so knowing that she will be the first woman, the first Black woman, the first Asian American woman, and the first daughter of immigrants to be elected to the White House. And while her victory stands on the shoulders of many American feminists, looking at the activism of women of color around the world, especially over the past decade, is crucial to understanding both the importance of Harris’s election and how it became

The Ms. Q&A: Activist and Artist Parastou Forouhar Is Fighting for the "Iran That Could Have Been"

Artist and activist Parastou Forouhar knows what it’s like to have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Forouhar was born and raised in Iran, but in 1991, under threat of persecution due to her family’s dissident views and her status as an artist and woman, she opted to leave Iran and immigrate to Germany, where she still lives and works. Currently she is a professor of fine arts at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, and her work has been exhibited around the world. Forouhar i

From Legal Battery to Contractual Sterilization: The Politics of Women’s Incarceration in the Middle East

Not only are laws about migrant women’s bodies resulting in the mass incarceration of women in the Gulf—they are also producing a chain reaction in the form of a generation of children who are stateless. The echoes of babies’ cries reverberate off the prison walls. Black and Brown mothers scurry around the cramped space, seeking what little pockets of privacy might be available to nurse their infants. A sense of sadness and frustration hangs in the air. The Al-Awir prison is located at the out

"Nasrin": Speaking to the World From a Prison in Iran

“For the past two decades I have been researching and writing about human rights, women’s rights and feminist activism in the Middle East. I have increasingly met activists like Nasrin who pay a dear price for trying to change laws that perpetuate injustice.” On September 26, 2016, Farhang Amiri—a 63-year-old Baha’i man who was much loved in his community of Yazd, Iran—was found stabbed to death outside his home. Two brothers confessed to the murder, citing that they killed Amiri because he wa

Party on! Why some young people are more concerned about their reputations than catching coronavirus

“Are you going to Cooper’s party tonight?” asked a young female voice behind me to a friend. It wasn’t a conversation opener I had expected to hear during my grocery run, some 14 days into a crisis in which everyone is being urged to stay at home and avoid groups. But it continued along these lines: “I kind of don’t want to go,” came the reply. “I mean, with the whole social distancing thing, a kegger doesn’t seem like the thing to do right now, right?” “You have to go,” implored her friend.
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