Winner of the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Humanities

I am absolutely elated that after winning the Brismes Award, my dissertation has also won the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Humanities. The award ceremony was held at MESA in D.C. on Sunday, 23 November, and it was wonderful to celebrate with my supervisor Dr. Walter Armbrust and old friends. Here is what the MESA judges said about my work:

Dr. Siamdoust’s “Iran’s Troubled Tunes” is a very well written and theoretically sophisticated dissertation, which bridges politics, history, culture, and ethnomusicology. The author has done a considerable amount of fieldwork in Tehran and gained access to many important musicians. Siamdoust is highly successful in blending short biographical sketches with a skillful and nuanced discussion of music and politics. More than an erudite work of scholarly excellence, it has the prospect of evolving into something that a much wider audience would find enjoyable and illuminating.

Here the links to the MESA website:

The MESA Dissertation Awards were established in 1982 to recognize exceptional achievement in research and writing for/of dissertations in Middle East studies. In 1984 the award was named for Malcolm H. Kerr to honor his significant contributions to Middle East studies. Awards are given in two categories: Social Sciences and Humanities.

Winner of the BRISMES Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize

So pleased that my dissertation “Iran’s Troubled Tunes: Music as Politics in the Islamic Republic” was chosen as a joint-winner of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies 2014 Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. And even more pleased with the anonymous judges’ generous comments on my work:


Siamdoust, Nahid Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]
Iran’s troubled tunes: music as politics in the Islamic Republic (University of Oxford, 2013)

A real tour de force that breaks new ground in the study not simply of music in Iran, but also in the constitution and development of the public sphere in the Islamic Republic. Engaging fully in the theoretical debates that have characterised studies of cultural production and their link with various systems of power production,
the dissertation succeeds in using wholly original material effectively and well. The treatment of this material on a number of levels is thoughtful, sensitive and displays a finely attuned ear that can bring out the nuance of language, as well as musical genres…. The rich empirical material is wonderfully used, not merely to illustrate, but also to develop a set of arguments about culture and power, and about the political dynamics of contemporary Iranian society. The interpretative power of the dissertation lies in its ability to draw on a number of disciplines in order to set before the reader an enlightening thesis that restores to the study of Iranian society and
politics the full complexity that it truly merits.

The Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize

The Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize was established jointly in 1986 by the Leigh Douglas Memorial Fund and BRISMES in memory of Dr Leigh Douglas who was killed in Beirut in 1986.

The prize is awarded annually to the writer of the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the Social Sciences or Humanities awarded by a British University.


One of Iran’s greatest poets, Simin Behbahani, dies at 87.

One of Iran’s greatest poets, Simin Behbahani, died today at 87. She was fierce, called a ‘lioness’ by Iranians. I saw her at the forefront of demonstrations for women’s rights at the One Million Signatures gatherings in the mid-2000s – always with her bright red lipstick. Especially in the last decades, her poems chronicled Iranian life, its social and political predicaments. She was a voice that people turned to. Her words will live forever. For Persian speakers, Iran Nameh had a great special edition on her a couple of years ago:

Here one of her most celebrated poems of late:

My Country, I Will Build You Again

My country, I will build you again,
If need be, with bricks made from my life.
I will build columns to support your roof,
If need be, with my bones.
I will inhale again the perfume of flowers
Favored by your youth.
I will wash again the blood off your body
With torrents of my tears.
Once more, the darkness will leave this house.
I will paint my poems blue with the color of our sky.
The resurrector of “old bones” will grant me in his bounty
a mountains splendor in his testing grounds.
Old I may be, but given the chance, I will learn.
I will begin a second youth alongside my progeny.
I will recite the Hadith of love and country
With such fervor as to make each word bear life.
There still burns a fire in my breast
to keep undiminished the warmth of kinship
I feel for my people.
Once more you will grant me strength,
though my poems have settled in blood.
Once more I will build you with my life,
though it be beyond my means.