WEBA Moment Of Innocence by Mohsen Makhmalbaf - 009_0_0.jpg

Introduction to Iranian Cinema

Spring 2019
Rhode Island School of Design

“From international film festivals to university campuses, from museums of modern art to neighborhood theaters, Iranian cinema has now emerged as the staple of a cultural currency that defies the logic of nativism and challenges the problems of globalization.” Hamid Dabashi writes this in the introduction to his landmark study of Iranian cinema, Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future (Verso, 2001). This course introduces you to the history of Iranian cinema, from the Iranian New Wave (1960s) to the present. It examines the ways in which it occupies an important place on the scene of global cinema while it “defies the logic of nativism.” We will watch some of the most prominent movies by acclaimed Iranian filmmakers Dariush Mehrjui, Ebrahim Golestan, Nasser Taghvai, Amir Naderi, Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Forough Farrokhzad, Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bahram Beyzaie, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Marzieh Meshkini, Asghar Farhadi, and Kamran Shirdel. We will also look at the works of diasporic artists, including Shirin Neshat, Marjane Satrapi, Ramin Bahrani, Mitra Farahani, and Babak Anvari.

Image: still from Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s A Moment of Innocence (Noon o Goldoon), 1996.


Forms, Words, Affects: Theories and Methods of Art History

Fall 2018
Rhode Island School of Design

This class examines different methods of interpretation employed by art historians and art critics to “read” works of art. Each week we will focus on a particular methodological approach central to the production of art historical knowledge such as Formalism, Iconography, Psychoanalysis, Semiotics, Post-Structuralism, Museum Studies, Critical Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, Affect Theory, and Postcolonial Theory. The course also looks into the history of the discipline itself by way of reading primary texts written by art historians and thinkers whose thoughts and writings, in one way or another, have shaped the discipline of art history. We will also consider responses from non-Western scholars to the predominantly Western narratives that are at the center of the field.

Image: installation view of Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest exhibition, 2016-17.
New Museum, New York.

2017 – 2018


The Global Art World and Its Margins

Spring 2018
Rhode Island School of Design

The promise of globalization to democratize the art world and decrease the gap between canonic centers of art and their peripheries appears today to be no more than an empty pledge. As the art historian Joaquin Barriendos argues, the inclusion of non-Western regions in the Western canons of art and art history has proven incapable of destabilizing the hegemonic positions which Western institutions, as arbitrators of contemporary art, comfortably occupy. This course examines a range of critical responses to globalization in the art world from the mid-1980s to the present offered from a variety of perspectives informed by debates in Marxism, Postcolonialism, Feminism, Anti-colonialism, Nationalism, etc. The goal of this course is first of all to think critically about the relation between Western centers of art and art historical knowledge production and contemporary art located at the margins of Western Europe and North America through an attempt to trace the origins and development of the period known as the age of globalization. We will also explore works of art and curatorial practices that perform critiques of the limits of cross-cultural exchange in the global art world.

Image: still from Zarina Bhimji, Yellow Patch, 2011.
35mm color film, single screen installation.


Art of the Islamic World

Spring 2018
hode Island School of Design

This course examines the history of art, architecture, and material culture of the Islamic world from the advent of Islam to the Mongol invasion of the city of Baghdad in 1258. It is organized around major themes that link the arts of the Islamic world together including the divine words of the Qur’an, royal patronage, geometric and vegetative motifs, religious and secular identities, cross-cultural exchange, figural representation, and aniconism, etc. We will focus primarily on architecture, illuminated manuscripts, calligraphy, and the art of the object, including ceramics, glass, metalwork, wood, ivory, jewelry, and textiles

Image: The Great Mosque of Damascus (Umayyad Mosque), 705–715 CE.

Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art

Modern and Contemporary Art of Iran

Fall 2017
Rhode Island School of Design

This course explores developments in the arts of modern and contemporary Iran and their reception in the West by way of a broad introduction to the discourses of artistic production and criticism in Iran and issues of cross-cultural encounter and interpretation. It begins with a historical survey and a review of important movements, significant historical events and their influences on the art production, and significant theoretical issues that appertain to what we have come to know as the “global art world.” It then takes up specific themes and studies those through the reading of primary texts and analysis of artworks alongside exploring the lexicon of Western media when writing about Iran’s visual cultures and art. The central goals of the course will be to think critically about the relation between history and cultural representation, to examine different Iranian aesthetic traditions and their reception in the West, and to consider the present state of art production and reception in the age of globalization from the margins.

Image: detail from installation view of Shirin Neshat's The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation, Beijing.
© Photograph: Jonathan Leijonhufvud, 2013.

2016 – 2017

Columbia University

Contemporary Civilization

2016 – 2017
Columbia University

In Fall 2016, I began teaching Contemporary Civilization. Created in 1919 as a course on War and Peace Issues, Contemporary Civilization, which is the oldest course taught through Columbia's Core Curriculum, offers an overview of some of the text that were, and continue to be, most influential in the formation of Western civilization and thought.

During my 1-year tenure as a Contemporary Civilization preceptor, I introduced to my class the larger epistemic arch of “absent voices.” This allowed us to accentuate Western thought’s significant reliance on the exclusion of minorities of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion in its formation of the modern subject. I included selections from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Cary Wolfe’s Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, and Michael Marder’s Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life to my syllabus in order address those constituencies absent from our philosophical imaginations of the subject, the citizen, and the state.

Image: detail view of Daniel Chester French's Alma Mater sculpture at Columbia University, New York.