Current Institutional Affiliation
Visiting Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Colgate University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, Georgetown University
Ambiguous Spaces: Classrooms and the Politics of Schooling and Identity Formation in Postrevolutionary Iran

Nearly three decades of postrevolutionary education in Iran has produced a generation of dissidents opposed to clerical rule, despite the intent to foster loyalty to the Islamic regime. Were the seeds of resistance being planted in the public school system itself? To explain the diversity of outcomes observed amongst Iran's "children of the revolution," this project focuses explicitly on the ways in which teachers, students, and parents differentially understand and negotiate a state curriculum geared towards production of the "New Islamic Citizen." I argue that schools, designated by the regime as arenas for securing the Islamic Republic by remolding people's own definition of themselves, are in fact "ambiguous spaces" that facilitate both compliance and resistance to the regime. I hypothesize that postrevolutionary cultural identity in Iran consists not of outright conformity to the regime, nor wholesale rejection of "Islamic values," but rather is the product of localized interpretations of official conceptions of citizenship, largely based upon people's lived experiences. Education is one aspect of this experience. Contemporary accounts of education in Iran present an image of schools as assembly lines, quietly churning out fully-formed citizens. Rather than presuming a linear relationship between state designs and outcomes, I utilize a state-in-society approach to explain the ways in which interactions between state and society results in their mutual and continuing transformation.