Last weekend, April 11-12, San Jose State University Persian Studies, with the support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute hosted the first-ever "Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora" Conference. The conference was a tremendous success and involved visual artists, writers, filmmakers, videographers, and academics who are at the forefront of producing and understanding the rich cultural production of Iranian Americans and Iranians of the Diaspora. With other 75 participants on each day of the conference, we engaged in rich and textured conversation, made connections, and heard from both first-generation and second-generation artists. The conference was exactly what I hoped it would be--a time for conversation, sharing our work with each other, and ultimately, inspiring one another. The variety of artists, many from California, but also from elsewhere in the United States had much in common, and also were able to participate in a cross-disciplinary exchange in ways that many conferences don't facilitate. In addition to the conference panels held on both Friday andSaturday, we hosted, "Inja o Oonja: Stories of Iranian American Life" a play written and adapted by Professor Matthew Spangler from three short stories by Jasmin Darznik, Mehdi Tavana Okasi, and Persis Karim. The audience loved these performances by a mixed cast of Iranian and non-Iranian actors (some professional, some acting for the first time), and the plays generated a rich discussion aftewards in the Q & A session. Saturday's panels were equally riveting and interesting with many artists and writers participating in a discussion about aesthetics, history, and the role of art in shaping Iranian identity. The film-screening and discussion with Iranian American directors, Babak Sarrafan (a professor at SJSU) and Mohammad Gorjestani, who screened "Doosteh Hameshegy" and "Refuge" was a testament to the equally beautiful representations of Iran and Iranian Americans in film. The conference was a great success with many participants reporting to me that, "this was by far one of the best conferences" they had attended. We thank all the participants and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for making this wonderful and unforgettable conference a reality.
To see photos from the conference, please go to our gallery.
For two more upcoming events, please see the flyers below.
We hope to see you at both of these important events!
With warm regards, Persis Karim, Director, Persian Studies at SJSU