Supported by the Roshan Fellowship for Excellence in Persian Studies, Candace Mixon, doctoral candidate in Islamic studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted research in Persian studies this summer. A large portion of Mixon’s dissertation research focuses on the intersections of Persian language, visual and material cultural production, and the family of the Prophet Muhammad in contemporary Iran.
In June, Mixon visited the University of Chicago to examine the Middle Eastern Posters Collection held there. The collection houses 311 posters from the 1970s-1990s from Iran, as well as a few from Afghanistan and Kuwait.
“The posters of this collection support my dissertation research on material culture and the family of the Prophet Muhammad, especially Fatima [the youngest daughter of the Prophet Muhammad], as the posters contain images and texts that reference or relate to the 12 imams of the Twelver Shi’a tradition, Fatima, or Muhammad,” explained Mixon. “Most of the posters came from the Iran-Iraq War period (1980-1988) and materials such as the ones found here serve as the foundation for my dissertation, currently titled, ‘Mother of her Father: Contemporary Devotion to Fatima al-Zahra in Iran.’”
As a scholar of material culture and Persianate studies, the physical examination of materials such as propaganda, informational, or artistic posters from this era is a key aspect of Mixon’s research, offering new evidence for their functionality and use, whether in Iran or the European diaspora.
During her time at the University of Chicago, Mixon noted physical details about the primary source materials that lead her to arrive at new conclusions about the use of the posters—were they meant to be plastered on street corners, placed in glass cases or protective coverings, or even housed in museums? Physical examination of materials offers insight into new details such as these.
Mixon’s summer research continues as she is currently in Tehran, Iran, supported by a fellowship from the UNC Graduate School, for a short program and research in Islamic Art at the University of Religions and Denominations. This will be her second research trip to Iran, and hopefully a signal that more opportunities will be available for students from the United States to perform research and cultural exchange in the country.
In November, Mixon will present at the Middle Eastern Studies Association Conference on a panel discussing strategies and successes for research in Iran. In her session, Mixon will share strategies in order to assist other scholars in gaining access to Iran. A combination of institutional support from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Foundation, Graduate School at UNC, and the American Institute of Iranian Studies as well as the applicability of Mixon’s research to contemporary religious practice in Iran have largely facilitated her access to researching in Iran.