The Incarcerated Modern: Prisons and Public Life in Iran

Mar 6, 2024, 12:15 pm1:15 pm
Free, Open to the Public



Event Description



Iran's prison system is a foundational institution of Iranian political modernity. The Incarcerated Modern traces the transformation of Iran from a decentralized empire with few imprisoned persons at the turn of the twentieth century into a modern nation-state with over a quarter million prisoners today. In policing the line between "bad criminal" and "good citizen," the carceral system has shaped and reshaped Iranian understandings of citizenship, freedom, and political belonging. This talk will explore the history of these transformations and analyze the interplay between the concrete space of the Iran prison and the role of prisons in producing new public cultures and political languages in Iran. 


Golnar Nikpour is a scholar of modern Iranian political and intellectual history, with a particular interest in the history of law, incarceration, revolution, and rights. She holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University's department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, & African Studies. She teaches on an interdisciplinary set of topics including modern Middle Eastern and North African history, Iranian history, political theory, Islamic studies, critical prison studies, colonialism and decolonization, and women and gender studies.

From 2015-2017, Nikpour was an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and in 2017-2018, she served as Neubauer Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the A.W. Mellon Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation, and her writing has appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development; The International Journal of Middle East Studies; The Canadian Journal of History; The New York Times, Jadaliyya; and Tehran Bureau. Since 2019, Nikpour has served on the editorial collective of the journal Radical History Review, and she also serves the editorial board of the Radical Histories of the Middle East book series on Oneworld Press. Nikpour is also co-founder and co-editor of B|ta'arof, a journal for Iranian arts and writing, where she has written extensively on the intellectual and cultural histories of Iran and its diaspora. Her first book, entitled The Incarcerated Modern: Prisons and Public Life in Iran will be out February 2024 on Stanford University Press. 

Alison Cummins