Welcome!Here you'll learn more about me and my work, my recent articles and books, and how to get in touch with me.

I am currently the Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of Montana. My approach to higher education has been informed by my personal journey as an Iranian-American woman growing up in the U.S., as well as my training as an anthropologist.

I have focused my academic career on diversity, inclusion, human trafficking, migration, sexuality, human rights, feminism and public health.


Latest works

What to Know About Iran's Morality Police

In 2007, Pardis Mahdavi was 13 minutes into her lecture at a university in Tehran about gender and sexuality in post-revolutionary Iran when the morality police stormed through the auditorium doors. “Pandemonium erupted. I was…pulled off stage. I was frozen in a state of suspended animation and…turned to look at one of them who had raised a hand and then I blacked out,” Mahdavi says. Iranian authorities charged Mahdavi, who is provost of the University of Montana, with trying to foment a revolut

Protests continue over the death of Mahsa Amini

A tragic loss of life has sparked a nation to demand their basic human rights following decades of strict laws. Town Square with Ernie Manouse airs at 3 p.m. CT. Tune in on 88.7FM, listen online or subscribe to the podcast. Join the discussion at 888-486-9677, questions@townsquaretalk.org or @townsquaretalk. For a month now, protests have raged on in Iran following the brutal death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the morality police for allegedly failing to meet the requirements of the country's

Iranian women have been rebelling against restrictions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – with renewed hope that protests this time will end differently

Shouts of “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom” are reverberating throughout the streets of Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, while in custody of the “morality police” in Tehran. These protests have echoes from past resistance movements. For the past two decades I have been studying gender and sexual politics in post-revolutionary Iran through on-the-ground ethnographic fieldwork. For some 40 years following the Feb. 11, 1979, Iranian Revolution, when Ay

Opinion | When Iran’s morality police came for me

Audience members ran every which way. I should have been shredding my lecture notes, running from the lectern into the nearby street. But the sight of a dozen bearded men in dark green uniforms rooted me to the floor. Two of the thugs climbed the steps to the stage; one raised his hand above my head, and then everything went black. When I came to, in the back seat of a car, their voices reverberated in my aching skull. “You are a ruined woman who is here to ruin our country,” one growled at me.

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

"Hell on Earth": Feminist Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Returned to Iran's Qarchak Prison

Nasrin’s family, her advocates, and Nasrin herself won’t be silenced. On Wednesday, as celebrations erupted around the world in response to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian human rights attorney, was quietly moved back to Qarchak women’s prison—known as one of the worst and most harrowing carceral institutions in the world—after a brief respite in the hospital where she was seeking medical care. While Jan. 20, 2021 was a lar

Young women and children particularly vulnerable to Taliban violence

As we continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan, many are concerned about the safety of women and young children in the country. Taliban fighters are notorious for taking young women, particularly as their brides. Dean Pardis Mahdavi is the head of social sciences at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has family connections in Afghanistan—we talked about the ordeal earlier.

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

Under attack from all sides, where does feminism go next?

We are at a turning point in how we think about feminism, womanhood, and resistance. In the US, feminism is under attack from the right, the left, and from within—causing American feminists a “triple bind”. As has historically been the case, the conservative right attacks feminism by trying to incite a moral panic. Feminists are cast as scheming women tearing the fabric of family life by putting their careers and aspirations ahead of procreation or child-rearing, without a care for “life” as tho

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.

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

The story of the Iranian new year, Nowruz, and why its themes of renewal and healing matter

As the days grow longer and the flowers start to bloom, my 5-year-old gets excited and exclaims, “Nowruz is coming.” Nowruz – or “new day” in English – is the Iranian new year. Celebrated at the exact moment of the spring equinox, this is a secular festival with roots that go back over 3,000 years. It was shaped by people of the Zoroastrian faith, believed to be the world’s oldest religion. An Iranian American anthropologist, I have spent much of my life studying my ancestral culture. Festival