BIPS holds an annual workshop for grant award holders to present their research to other awardees and to the Research Committee. These workshops are held around the UK, generally at universities offering Persian / Iranian study programmes.   They give early-career researchers and doctoral students a great opportunity to showcase their research to a peer group audience and to share their research aims and projects.

BIPS Workshop – McDonald Institute, Cambridge: 5 March 2016

Award Holder, Shiva Mihan reports:

In the BIPS tradition, a dinner on the first evening offered a friendly atmosphere for the presenters and board members to meet and get acquainted before the very well organised programme on the following day. The workshop was held at the MacDonald Institute of Archaeological Research in Downing Site, ideally equipped for our unusually wide range of presentations. After a warm welcome, Ms Kay REINJANG (University of Cambridge) presented the first paper: Bimaran stone reliquary and the beginning of relic worship in Afghanistan. This was followed by a controversial subject: Marzieh KAIVANARA (University of Bristol) on the underlying factors leading to undergoing cosmetic surgery in Tehran, which aroused an interesting discussion.   Mr Tom LEWIS from SOAS reported on his trip to Kerman, where he studied water-scarce pistachio growing regions and environmental changes in a post nuclear sanction context. In the afternoon, after the lunch break, Dr Shivan MAHENDRARAJAH (University of Cambridge) discussed his study of the history of Herat, covering the period from 617/1220‐21 to 783/1381 for his forthcoming book. The next speaker, SHIVA MIHAN (University of Cambridge), presented her recently discovered manuscript produced under the patronage of the Timurid prince, Baysunghur Mirza, with emphasis on the scribe’s identity and his role at the prince’s court. The last talk discussed the European trips of Qajar kings from 1873 to 1905, given by Dr David MOTADEL (Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh), enriched with various pictorial representations from different sources. To conclude the workshop, Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Chair, BIPS Research Committee) offered a summary of the talks and closing words. Many thanks to BIPS for giving us all the chance to try out our work on an audience which in turn resulted in very useful feedback from colleagues and experts.”

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Research Director), Professor Paul Luft, Professor Charles Melville, Dr Cameron Petrie, Dr Andrew Newman and Professor Alan Williams attended the workshop as representatives of BIPS and its Research Committee. The grant holders were:

Dr Shivan Mahendrarajah

Ms Marzieh KAIVANARA (University of Bristol)

In Need of Recognition: Ethnographic Study of Aesthetic Practices in Tehran

This research focuses on the underlying factors leading to undergoing cosmetic surgery in Tehran. Drawing on Bourdieu’s analysis of class and habitus, and Butler’s conceptualisation of performativity, in this research, I examine the narratives that bridge cosmetic surgery with performative aspects of class, gender and health. This study is based on an ethnographic research in Tehran and interviews with 33 men and women, 5 cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons and also 5 Islamic jurists. Identifying regimes of (in)visibility and (mis)recognition as influential dynamics addressed throughout the interviews, I argue that cosmetic surgery offers an opportunity for negotiations of social identity constructed upon presentation of embodied aspects of class, gender and health.

Ms Shiva Mihan

Mr Tom LEWIS (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)

Approaching positive change in Iran’s environment, private, state and international perspectives.

The boundary between the state and the private sector is often blurred in Iran, where government bodies are often tied up in the private sector either directly or through large state subsidies, on energy for example. With regard to the natural environment, the state and private interests sometimes oppose one another and sometimes coincide. With reference to a case study from water scarce pistachio growing region of Kerman, Iran, I discuss these tensions, place them in the international context of the post nuclear sanctions era, and try to make sense of how we can expect to see Iran’s environmental situation change in the future.

Dr David Motadel

Dr Shivan MAHENDRARAJAH (University of Cambridge)

Herat Under the Mongols

This paper is about a history of Herat, a work‐in‐progress. The history covers Herat’s ruin by the Mongols (617/1220‐21), its revival under the Karts (643‐783/1245‐1381), and its surrender to Tamerlane (783/1381).   The book’s structure, periodization, and themes are discussed. Part I, ‘political history’: 649‐76/1251‐78: the consolidation of ‘Afghanistan’ and Iran by the Karts and Mongols; 676‐707/1278‐1307: emerging growth in Herat region; 707‐83/1307‐81: economic revival, Turkic migrations, and independent Kartid rule. Part II, ‘social‐economic history’: the rebuilding of the irrigation systems of the Herat Valley and revival of the agricultural economy. Part III, ‘religious and social life’: the Sufis and ‘ulama of Herat, Jam, and Chisti‐i Sharif.

Ms Shiva MIHAN (University of Cambridge)

New light on a Baysunghuri manuscript

Dr David MOTADEL (Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh)

Spectacles of Sovereignty: Qajar Shahs in Imperial Europe, 1873-1905

McDonald Institute, Cambridge

Ms Wannaporn Kay REINJANG (University of Cambridge)

Bimaran stone reliquary and the beginning of relic worship in Afghanistan

The stone reliquary from Bimaran stupa deposit in eastern Afghanistan was found containing the famous gold casket that bears images of the Buddha. It was also found with coins of late first to early second century AD. The inscription on this stone reliquary, written in Aramaic-derived scripts, clearly states the association of the reliquary with Buddhist relic worship. The coins found with it are so far one of the earliest in date associated with relic worship in Afghanistan, providing the form of the beginning of relic worship in this Indo-Iranian borderland. New findings on certain physical characteristics of this stone reliquary confirms its first to second century AD as the latest date for the production and proposes eastern Afghanistan and Bajaur (borderland between north-western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) as the production area of this stone reliquary.

BIPS Workshop – University of Glasgow: 7 March 2015

Award holder, Beatrice Campi reports:

“The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of Glasgow University hosted a one-day workshop in which seven BIPS grant holders had the chance to present the developments and outcomes of their research. The first speaker, Kristen Hopper, was the spokeswoman of the Durham University Qanat Archaeology project. BIPS funded part of a workshop in Durham, in which its achievements were presented to archaeologists digging and researching in Iran, Iraq, Oman, UAE, Egypt, and Syria. Particular emphasis was placed on how optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating can be used to date the construction and use of the qanat, a technique that has only been recently applied to qanat studies.        The second speaker, Shiva Mihan (Cambridge University), discussed the proceedings of her doctoral thesis on the manuscript of Baysunghur’s Anthology in the Malek National Library. She delighted the audience with unpublished images she personally took in Tehran last summer, while researching at the Malek Library. She also cast doubt on the authenticity of the manuscripts through examples of calligraphical and pictorial comparison with contemporary manuscripts (e.g. “y” of Ferdowsi doesn’t match with the way it was written in other manuscripts at the time; never two illustrations on the same folio, while in this manuscript it happens). The fourth speaker, Beatrice Campi (SOAS, London University), presented her on-going research on Qajar pink enamelled jewellery. Her fascination with Iranian imperial jewellery has led her on an incredible journey of discovery starting in Tehran, passing through Shiraz, and finally, carrying out most of her research in Isfahan. She has gathered a wealth of precious photographic material, unavailable in Western publications, has met and discussed her ideas with Iranian scholars carrying out research in the same area of interest, such as Mitra Etezadi and Mehdi Arjmand; and has investigated new theories such as a potential inter-cultural Irano-Armenian connection. Gennady Kurin (Cambridge University) was the only speaker presenting a religious and philosophical topic: the Ahle Haqq Ali Illahi sect. Though his research is at a very preliminary stage, the pictures of his travels in the North-West borders of Iran and in Azerbaijan left everyone with a great eagerness to travel to those places and know more about Turkish religious minorities and mystics. Francesca Fuoli (SOAS, London University) was the only speaker who discussed a topic expanding outside Iranian borders, and leading further eastward to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her discussion on colonialism and state-building in Afghanistan 1878-1900 involved historical data and documentary sources that she personally gathered and analysed while residing in New Delhi and Mumbai thanks to the generosity of BIPS, which funded her research and travel grants. Lastly, Dr Firuza Melville and Dr George Lane, two well-known scholars and BIPS members, presented the latest developments of their on-going studies. Dr Melville discussed Russian-Iranian relations through the diplomatic documents and literature during the declining years of the Qajar dynasty. The weakness of the latest Qajar kings allowed the territorial expansion of the Russian empire into the Iranian territories, and led to the Tehran insurrection and attack on the Russian embassy. Dr Lane presented his paper on the Phoenix Mosque in Hangzhou, testifying to the fertile intermingling of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern cultures in the Yuan period, 1271 – 1368. Not only was the mosque built in the Yuan capital, but its position at the heart of the city, suggests that the Persian community was welcomed by the locals and integrated with them.   This workshop was a wonderful experience of academic gathering, mutual sharing and cultural growth for all its participants, achieving in full the aims of the British Institute of Persian Studies to educate and to spread the knowledge deriving from Iranian Studies.”

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Research Director), Professor Paul Luft and Dr Andrew Newman attended the workshop as representatives of the BIPS and its Research Committee. The grant holders were Dr Firuza Abdulaeva (Melville), Beatrice Campi, Francesa Fuoli, Kristen Hopper, Gennady Kurin, Dr George Lane and Shiva Mihan.