Author Archives: sanaz1977

UCL Mellon Programme Presents Three Short Films by Shahrzad M. Davis

davis1Dr. Saeed Talajooy and Sanaz Raji would like to invite you to a film screening and UK premier of three short films by Iranian-American film-maker, Shahrzad M. Davis on Wednesday, 25th of March 2009 at 5:30pm, Engineering Building, Malet Place, Room 1.02.

The films all deal with aspects of migration, identity, and sexuality. After the screening, there will be a Q&A session with the film-maker.

About the Film-maker:

Shahrzad M. Davis is a polyglot activist anthropologist hailing from California- the land of golden dreams. Making her Iranian mother and Anglo-American father proud, she received a master’s degree from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship upon her graduation from UC Berkeley. True to the fabled woman inspiring her name, Shahrzad likes to retell stories from the diasporic frontiers through the pen and video camera.

For full details visit:

We warmly invite you and please pass the message around to those who might be interested.


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Moroccan Memories National Touring Exhibition

I know I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but things have begun to pick up with a project that I’ve been working on for the past year, Moroccan Memories in BritainI have previously mentioned this project before on the blog, but to refresh your memory, Moroccan Memories is an oral and visual history project, exploring three generations of British-Moroccans.

At the moment, Moroccan Memories is having a national touring exhibition, which started with a bang at the British Library, where some of the oral histories collected will be archived. The exhibition has travelled to Westminister Academy and will be at SOAS, University of London from Monday, 15th of December to Thursday the 18th of December 2008. This will be your last chance to see the exhibition of you are in London, as we will be travelling to St. Albans, Crawley, Trowbridge, Manchester and finishing on the 9th of February 2009 in Edinburgh.

If you are out and about and would like to hear amazing beats from the Harir Band and Gwana Blues, please come to a FREE concert on Monday the 15th of December 2008 at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS. The concert starts at 7:30-9:30pm.

For information regarding the Moroccan Memories in Britain National Touring Exhibition please visit out site at:


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Pilgrim State and Motherland: From Migration to Homecoming

This is an essay from guest writer for Intersections, Jacqueline Walker, the author of Pilgrim State.

In 1959, as a five year old, I arrived in Southampton from Jamaica having experienced periods of separation from my mother. Like many Caribbean parents of the time, my mother had been working away, in her case in Canada, to save enough money to take her family to Britain. As children we were being united not just with our physical mother but with the country we had been taught to think of as the Mother Country. Many years later, when I began research into the construction of British Caribbean identity for a postgraduate thesis, it became clear that the confluence between Caribbean notions of mothers and Motherland with experiences of separation and reunion were not just part of my personal childhood history. The work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, amongst others, has explored the response of Black British people to migration and colonialism. My intention here is to examine one strand of this thinking, with particular reference to a number of literary works, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and my own book Pilgrim State in order to better understand the ways that the experience of migration and settlement for people of Caribbean descent has changed over the last sixty years.


The effects of enslavement on the relationship to ‘self’ has been commented on by writers such as CLR James and Franz Fanon. For more than two hundred years people of African descent had their bodies and minds enslaved through a number of violent and subtle stages that internalised oppression, making bearable what was, in reality, insufferable. However, people will always subvert oppression and Africans were not passive victims; they never have been, they rebelled, not just through acts of open revolt, such as those which occurred in Barbados or Haiti[1]. In every day life enslaved peoples subverted the power of the plantocracy, developing coded, highly mobile language systems, casting spells, corrupting food and saboutaging work schedules. However, one of the most effective and least known modes of resistance was the action taken by women in relation to their own reproduction. Control of fertility was, not surprisingly, a central arena for conflict; the issue being not simply how many children a woman would have, but when they would be born, who the father would be and the eventual fate of those children. Continue reading

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A Blog on Cultures of Migration in Italy

A friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Federica Mazzara, a fellow at the UCL Mellon Programme, has recently started a blog, entitled, Moving Boarders: The Aesthetics of Migraton. I had the opportunity to meet Federica this past December and in March, she organized a workshop on the Aesthetics of Migration at UCL which I had the chance to present a paper on the use of parody in photoshopped and YouTube clips by those who are 2nd generation Iranian in the diaspora.

I hope that you take the time to visit Federica’s blog as it has great commentary and links about Italy, migration and visual cultures.


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A Must Read on the Afro-Caribbean Diasporic Experience

Pilgrim State

Pilgrim State

My last post was about some of my favorite fiction and non-fiction about the migration/diasporic experiences. While I mentioned that most of my previous reading has an “Iranian” slant, I’ve just come across a great book written about a diaspora I know little about, but after reading Pilgrim State, I hope to learn more about.

Pilgrim State is about, author, Jacqueline Walker’s dynamic childhood and the lessons she and her siblings learned from their equally dynamic and strong-willed mother, Dorothy. I recently had the chance to meet and have a chat with Jacqueline and she alerted me to the fact that many books written about the migration and diasporic experience rarely are about mothers who bring their families over to begin a new life elsewhere. This is why I feel her book is a noteworthy addition to diasporic literature and to the Afro-Caribbean experience in Britain.

I’ve invited Jacqueline as a guest blogger for Intersections and am excited by the wealth of knowledge and genuine understanding she’ll be able to bring regarding the Afro-Caribbean diaspora.


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Favorite Fiction?

Oh, well, it doesn’t have to be fiction alone. It could be non-fiction, graphic novel, etc. What I am getting at is: “What would be your top 10 list of books with a diaspora, migration, identity bent?”

Well, my reading habits tend to change day-by-day, but this would be my top 10 list. I should mention that the list might reflect a more Iranian-centric feel to diaspora and identity issues.

10. Daughter of Persia: A Woman’s Journey From Her Father’s Harem Through the Islamic Revolution  by Sattareh Farman Farmaian.

9. Too See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America by Tara Bahrampour.

8. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez — this is a hard one, because I also enjoyed reading In the Name of Salome.

7. A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans by Persis M. Karim & Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami. I also enjoyed and have reviewed Karim’s latest, Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, but I feel that her first anthology on Iranian diasporic writing was so raw and powerful. The only passage in Let Me Tell You that captured this “raw” appeal, was the short autobiographic story by Paz, entitled, “1979”– this is a must read!

6. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera. I went through a Kundera phase a two years ago and voraciously read anything from him. This work, by far, is my favorite. Don’t cheat and watch the movie first– that will do you an incredible disservice to the many themes mentioned in the book.

5. Strangeland by Tracey Emin. You already know her for well because of her provoking installations and legendary behavior, but this isn’t about “that” Tracey, but rather a reflective look at the “Tracey, from Margate”. I was especially captivated how she viewed her own bi-cultural heritage, being both English and Turkish Cypriot.

4. The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic. The title alludes to an S&M club where Tanja’s students occassionally work to make extra money. Yet, the S&M theme is apt, considering the emotional trauma and pain that each in the book undergoes as Yugoslavia falls apart.

3. Snow by Orhan Pamuk. This book is heavy into identity, especially political and religious identity of a nation. The novel is set in Kars, a city at the crossroads between, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran, where Ka, a poet who has been a political exile in Germany for the past 12 years returns. Posing as a journalist, Ka attempts to uncover the reasons for suicide among young women, but gets embroiled in more serious events that are happening between secularist and Islamist in Kars.

2 and 1 tied– Persepolis 1 & 2  by Marjane Satrapi. I simply love this book. I particularly love how it uses graphics to illustrate her powerful and painful story. If you decide to watch the film before reading the book, I won’t chastise you for it because both are brilliant!


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Death: The Price to Pay for U.S. Citizenship

Not a day goes by in the media without horrendous and tragic stories about the consequences of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. By the title of this post you are probably wondering where “citizenship” comes into the entire debacle of the Afghanistan and Iraq War? Well, apparently in the Washington Post, there is an excellent article on how the U.S. military is offering an incentive, by way of citizenship to thousands of foreign-born, and often poor, immigrants. Essentially, “Jose” is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. in the hopes that his “patriotic” services will be returned in kind with full U.S. citizenship. Well of course, “Jose” does get U.S. citizenship, but only after he is six feet underground in a coffin! These “green card” soldiers are part of “tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the U.S. armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not U.S. citizens.”

As the article mentions, the U.S. has a history of using immigrants to fight wars. During the Mexican-American War, many Irishmen, escaping the Potato Famine, were recruited to fight, lured by the promise of salaries and land. The Saint Patrick’s Battalion, largely made up of Irish immigrants to the U.S. fought and were instrumental in helping the U.S. army during the start of the war. However, things began to change for the battalion and many of them deserted to fight with the Mexican army. Possible theories for this large scaled desertion are many: mistreatment towards them by other nativist soldiers and senior officers, not being allowed to attend Sunday Mass or to practice their own religion freely, among other motivations. However, the main reasons for the battalion’s desertion was because of shared religious sympathy with the Mexicans (also Catholic) and recognizing the similarities between the situation in Ireland and Mexico.

Bringing up the history of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion is not to say that immigrants cannot be trusted and are not loyal, but to show how the U.S. army manipulated citizenship so that Irish Catholics would be fighting Mexican Catholics, i.e Catholic vs Catholic fighting. Yet again, citizenship is being manipulated so that disinfranchized ethnics and would-be citizens of the U.S. are having to prove their patriotism by fighting Bush’s (and Blair’s) corporate, unjust, and dirty war. Case in point, the article mentions a father of a deceased immigrant soldier-

Fernando Suarez del Solar just feels angry- angry at what he considers the futility of a war that claimed his only son, angry at the military recruiters he says courted young Jesus relentlessly even when the family still lived in Tijuana.

His son was just 13, Suarez del Solar said, when he was first dazzled by Marine recruiters in a California mall. For the next two years Jesus begged the family to emigrate and eventually they did, settling in Escondido, Calif., where the teen signed up for the Marines before he left high school.

Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb in the first week of the war. He left behind a wife and baby and parents so bitter about his death that they eventually divorced.

Today, his 52-year-old father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.

Fernando has a valid point to be extremely upset at the U.S.military. Most of those recruited during the early days of the Iraq War came from disadvantaged or ethnic backgrounds. I never saw the U.S. army recruiters in posh or upper middle class neighborhoods, which are of course largely white. Most of the recruitment I witnessed was in lower middle class, largely ethnic neighborhoods. I believe Michael Moore made a point about this in film Fahrenheit 9/11.

As the Washington Post articled mentioned, “Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder, said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it.

Yes, indeed it is sad, but it makes me outraged to see immigration manipulated in such a tragic manner.


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