Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet

Modern Middle East with a focus on Iran, the Persian Gulf, and the Ottoman Empire
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History
College Hall 216A
Office Hours: 
By appointment
215 898.4959

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar. She completed her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history at Yale University. Her book, Frontier Fictions: Shaping the Iranian Nation, 1804-1946 (Princeton University Press, 1999) analyzes the significance of land and border disputes to the process of identity and nation formation, as well as to cultural production, in Iran and its borderlands. It pays specific attention to Iran's shared boundaries with the Ottoman Empire (later Iraq and Turkey), Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf region. Her book was translated into Persian by Kitabsara Press, Tehran, Iran and has been released in paperback by Princeton in 2011. The Turkish translation of this book has just been published by Istanbul Bilgi University Press:

Building on this body of research, Professor Kashani-Sabet is completing a forthcoming book, Tales of Trespassing: Borderland Histories of Iran and the Middle East (under contract to Cambridge University Press), in which she expands on her arguments about frontiers, nature, and border communities in Middle Eastern modernity. She spent the 2015-16 academic year at the Institute for Advanced Study's School of Social Science in Princeton, New Jersey participating in the School's designated theme, "Borders and Boundaries."

In addition, Dr. Kashani-Sabet has worked extensively on the histories of disease, science, and reproductive politics. She finished a book entitled, Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran (Oxford University Press, 2011), which received the 2012 book award from the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies for outstanding scholarship in the field of Middle East gender studies. ( She has also published articles on disability, hygiene, humanism, and quarantines in the context of the Persianate world.

Currently, she is preparing a book on America's historical relationship with Iran and the Islamic world entitled, Between Heroes and Hostages: A Cultural History of US-Iranian Relations (under contract to Princeton University Press). She has delivered numerous public presentations drawn from this research project.

Professor Kashani-Sabet has written several fictional pieces. Her first novel, Martyrdom Street was published by Syracuse University Press in 2010, and an excerpt from this work is available for download below. She is in the process of writing another novel that grapples with the complexities of modern Iranian society. Kashani-Sabet views fiction as a creative medium through which to explore the human and emotional dimensions of social upheaval.

Professor Kashani-Sabet teaches courses on various aspects of modern Middle Eastern history, including ethnic and political conflicts, borderlands, gender and women's issues, popular culture, diplomatic history, revolutionary ideologies, and general surveys. Dr. Kashani-Sabet has directed the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania since 2006. She has received funding from various entities, including the Social Science Research Council, to initiate cultural programs related to the Middle East.

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Selected Academic Articles

  • Roundtable -- Echoes: Iranian Uprisings and the Arab Spring: "Freedom Springs Eternal" in International Journal of Middle East Studies / Volume 44 / Issue 01
  • "The Politics of Reproduction: Maternalism and Women's Hygiene in Iran, 1896-1941," International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES), February 2006. Nominated by IJMES for the Berkshire Article Prize.
  • "Hallmarks of Humanism: Hygiene and Love of Homeland in Qajar Iran," American Historical Review, October 2000.
  • "Picturing the Homeland: Nationalism and the Geographic Discipline in Iran," Journal of Historical Geography, October 1998. Translated into Persian as "Jughrafiya-yi Vatan," Guftugu (Tehran, Iran), 1999.
  • "Fragile Frontiers: The Diminishing Domains of Qajar Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES), May 1997.
  • "The Frontier Phenomenon: Perceptions of the Land in Iranian Nationalism," Critique: Journal for Critical Studies of the Middle East , Spring 1997.

Op-Ed Piece

Online Opinion Pieces:

  •  “Election Blues: Iran’s Mixed Legacy of Constitutional Rule.” Posted on Gulf/2000 15 June 2009.
  •  “The Beckoning,” Posted on Gulf/2000, 21 June 2009.

  • What Now? Lessons on How to Engage Iran,” New Horizons (July 6, 2009). Published in Penn Alumni Magazine (2010). 

  • “Rethinking the Arab/Persian Binary and the Modern Middle East” — Posted on Gulf/2000, 19 May 2015 (originally written in 2014).

Research Interests

  • Frontier history of Iran & its borderlands
  • Nationalism, ethnicity, and state formation
  • Ottoman-Iranian relations; Iranian-Afghan relations
  • Social history of hygiene
  • Women's and gender history
  • US-Islamic relations
Courses Taught: 
  • HIST 081 History of the Middle East since 1800
  • HIST 082 Islam in Global Perspective
  • HIST 083 Diplomacy in the Middle East
  • HIST 088 From Oil Fields to Soccer Fields: The Middle East in the 20th Century
  • HIST 106 Revolutionary Ideas, Ideas of Revolution in the Middle East
  • HIST 106 Women and Gender in the Middle East & North Africa
  • HIST 206 Middle East and the United States
  • HIST 206 Nationalism in the Middle East