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On Photographic Self-Representation in Iran

Talk by Professor Ali Behdad on "Photographic Self-Representation in Iran". Nov 16, 2016.

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University of Southern California, Ronald Tutor Campus Center
The Rosen Family Screening Theatre (TCC 227)
3607 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Lecture will start at 5:00 pm. Stop by earlier for an afternoon coffee. The room is located across Lemonade restaurant up the stairs.

Ali Behdad is the John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Belated Travelers: Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution and A Forgetful Nation: On Immigration and Cultural Identity in the United States.

In his latest book, "Camera Orientalis: Reflections on Photography of the Middle East" (University of Chicago Press), considering a range of Western and Middle Eastern archival material from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he offers a rich account of how photography transformed Europe’s distinctly Orientalist vision into what seemed objective fact, a transformation that proved central to the project of European colonialism. At the same time, Orientalism was useful for photographers from both regions, as it gave them a set of conventions by which to frame exotic Middle Eastern cultures for Western audiences. Behdad also shows how Middle Eastern audiences embraced photography as a way to foreground status and patriarchal values while also exoticizing other social classes.

In this lecture, Professor Behdad will screen a wide range of images, from late Qajar-era photographs by professional studios and amateur practitioners to contemporary works by such artists as Bahman Jalali and Shadi Ghadirian, to show, on the one hand, how middle and upper-class men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century embraced photography to foreground their social status and patriarchal values, while engaging in what one might call “photo-exoticism,” and how, on the other hand, the works of contemporary artists who deconstruct this patriarchal and exoticist tradition are inadvertently implicated in what he describes as “neo-Orientalism,” that is a mode of representation that perpetuates many of the old stereotypes of the Middle East through what on the surface seems a sympathetic liberal discourse.

Later Event: December 2
Fifth PACSA Celebration Night