Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History at Harvard, will discuss “Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran: A Digital Archive at Harvard University.” Reception with Iranian food to follow. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Qajar dynasty has typically been studied through its men, as women were assumed to be too marginalized and undereducated to be worthy of historians’ attention. Afsaneh Najmabadi’s digital archives of letters, photographs, manuscripts, and legal and financial documents demonstrate several research paths by which to explore and challenge prevailing assumptions, especially about Muslim women. Marriage contracts, for example, besides being works of art in themselves, often show an assertion of agency and rights on the part of women. Correspondences reveal a high degree of literacy and a seemingly innocent cookbook turns out to serve a second unexpected purpose as biting political satire.
This lecture shows how recent developments in the digital humanities provide new possibilities for doing gender and women’s history for periods and places that had until recently seemed difficult to research. The website http://www.qajarwomen.org/ (under development since 2009) offers innumerable possibilities for writing cultural and social histories of nineteenth-century Iran.