Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet

Firoozeh  Kashani-Sabet

Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History

Modern Middle East with a focus on Iran and its borderlands, the Persian Gulf, and the Ottoman Empire


St. Leonard's Court, Room 300.3

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 was published by Istanbul Bilgi University Press:

Her article, “Fragile Frontiers: The Diminishing Domains of Qajar Iran," undergirded an art exhibition entitled: “Fragile Frontiers — Visions on Iran’s In/Visible Borders" (ZƏRİF SƏRHƏDLƏR – İRANIN GÖRÜN[MƏY]ƏN SƏRHƏDLƏRİNƏ BAXIŞ) at the Yarat Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan, where artists interpreted the notion of frontiers through multi-media works that explored borderland migrations, shared historical and cultural experiences, as well as the unnatural separation of local communities:

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." During the 2021-2022 academic year, she is a fellow of the Wolf Humanities Center’s forum on “Migration.”

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: Key Moments in the History of US-Iranian Relations. She has delivered numerous public presentations drawn from this research project.

Professor Kashani-Sabet has written several fictional pieces. Her first novel, Martyrdom Streetwas 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. She also published a poem, “A Sestina in 1979,” which explores the beauty and burden of creating “boundless music.”

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 directed the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania from 2006 - 2019. 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

  • The Anti-Aryan Moment: Decolonization, Diplomacy, and Race in Late Pahlavi Iran,”  International Journal of Middle East Studies, 53 (4), 691-702. doi:10.1017/S0020743821001069. 
  • “Before ISIS: What Early America Thought of Islam,” Sociology of Islam, 8:1, pp. 17-52
  • "Colorblind or Blinded by Color? Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in Iran," in Sites of Pluralism: Community Politics in the Middle East, edited by Firat Oruç (Oxford, 2019)
  • 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).

  • "Narrative on Iran Defective at its Core," May 10, 2018, LobeLog:

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
Office Hours
By appointment via Zoom

Ph.D. Yale University

M.Phil. Yale University

M.A. Yale University

B.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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