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ASIAN STUDIES FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Mina Yazdani

ASIAN STUDIES FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Mina Yazdani

Dr. Mina Yazdani
Ph.D., University of Toronto
B.A., Indiana University Bloomington

  • Associate Professor of History
  • Affiliated Faculty of Asian Studies
  • Affiliated Faculty of the Honors Program

How long have you been teaching at EKU?
This is my sixth year at EKU.

What do you like most about your position?
Interacting with students who are engaged, are eager to learn, and have upright characters.

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How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?
When the program started, I was invited to be a part of the consultations.

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What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?
The work of serious students who are interested in learning about cultures and societies different from their own. I am particularly talking about research papers that have been written with genuine interest in learning more about Asia, be it the socio-political processes of twentieth-century Iran, the symbolism of art found in mosques, or interpretations of the Quran, etc.

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Who were your influences in Asian Studies?
The late Marshall Hodgson because of his penetrating insights into the interrelation of societies in world history and the manner in which Islamic civilization influenced the course of life and thought in the West.

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Tell us about your current and past teaching in Asian Studies.
In Spring 2018, I taught an Honors course on religion, history, and culture of the Middle East. It presented a brief introduction to Islam and a short history of the modern Middle East, and covered topics such as women in Islamic societies, reform and renewal in Islam, Islamic arts and architecture, and Persian and Arabic literature. I also taught an upper-division course on the history of the modern Middle East.

Tell us about your current and past research in Asian Studies.
My research focuses on the intersection of religion and politics in modern Iran. My Ph.D. dissertation explored the topic between 1881 and 1941. My research in the past few years has focused on the period between 1941 and 1979.

What misconceptions do many Americans have about Asia and what might they be surprised to learn about the continent and its people?
The most prevalent misconception is the tendency to think that all the people of the Middle East are homogenous and monolithic, when it fact the region is very diverse with an incredibly rich array of faiths, languages, cuisines, clothing, music, art, etc.

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What is your favorite book about Asia and why?
Marshall Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam for having drawn attention to and explored the importance of the Persianate world in the development of Muslim thought.The other is The Persian Presence in the Islamic World, edited by Richard G. Hovannisian and Georges Sabagh. This work is an anthology with chapters written by some of the foremost scholars in the fields of Iranian and Islamic studies, highlighting the impact of Persians on the Islamic world.

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What is your favorite film about Asia and why?
The best movie I have ever watched is the Iranian movie, Bashu, the Little Stranger, directed by Bahram Beizai. A close second is another Iranian film, Where Is the Friend’s Home?, directed by Abbas Kiarostami. Both films are very touching, feature outstanding cinematography, and shed light on the human experience.

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What is your favorite Asian cuisine and why?
Bademjan kabaab (eggplant stuffed with walnut, pomegranate, and spices). It is the most delicious Persian dish I have ever had.

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If you could have dinner with any Asian figure, past or present, who would it be and why?
Past: The Babi heroine, Tahirih Qurrat al-'Ayn, the nineteenth-century Iranian theologian and poet who during a Babi conference in Persia in 1848 dared to appear without a veil, as a way to express that it was the dawn of a new day. Her action is taken by many as the first attempt to win freedom for Persian women. I am fascinated by her extraordinary courage and insight. Present: Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, because of her appreciation of the right of education, especially for girls and women, and her courage in the face of extremism and religious prejudice. Her now famous quotation, “with guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism,” could not have been better put.

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Have you traveled to Asia? What was your most interesting experience?
I am from Asia. I am an Iranian. I have spent most of my life in Iran. It is difficult to pinpoint one experience.

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How can Asian Studies enhance the educational experience of any EKU students?
It can broaden their horizons, exposing them to a plethora of diverse cultures, thoughts, experiences, and ways of being in the world.

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What advice do you have for Asian Studies students at EKU?
Interact with students, faculty, and staff from other parts of the world, Asia included. Fortunately, there are many international students at EKU, particularly from the Middle East. Associate with them, befriend them, and welcome them into your circles. This can only enrich your college experience. If any opportunity for education abroad presents itself, seize it.

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Would you recommend five books and/or films about Asia?
Books: Rumi’sMasnavi, his magnum opus, the first two volumes of which have been translated beautifully by Jawid Mojaddedi. Rumi: Past and Present, East and West,by Franklin Lewis.The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz, translated by Elizabeth T. Grey, Jr. with an introduction by Dariush Shayegan.Farid ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of the Birds, translated by Dick Davis.The Gulistan (Rose Garden) of Sa’di, translated by Wheeler M. Thackston.Movies:In addition to the two mentioned above, I would recommend an old (1975) movie, Dersu Uzala, directed by the Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.

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For more about Dr. Mina Yazdani, please visit http://asianstudies.eku.edu/insidelook/dr-mina-yazdani-profile-courage and http://stories.eku.edu/people/professors-story-one-heartbreak-resilience.

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Published on June 10, 2018

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