Asian American Studies Brown Bag Seminar
The Politics of Dance in the Iranian Diaspora
Heather Rastovac, UC Postdoctoral Fellow
Iranian dance genres and Iranian dancers are gaining increasing attention among scholars and audiences in North America and Europe as Iranian dancers have begun to increasingly circulate among transnational dance circuits and social media over the past ten years. Historically and today, dance in Iran and its diaspora has been a site for the projection and production of a wide range of ideologies and discourses, such as those surrounding: gender and sexuality, modernity, nationalism, religion/secularism, high art/low art, Orientalism and auto-Orientalism, cultural preservation, human rights, and resistance. In this talk, UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh will provide a brief overview of her doctoral and postdoctoral work, which analyzes the politics of dance in the Iranian diaspora, particularly as they relate to War on Terror biopolitics and Euro-American geopolitics of neoliberalism, immigration, and citizenship.
Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh is a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in UC Davis’s Department of Asian American Studies under the mentorship of Dr. Sunaina Maira. From 2016 – 2018, Heather was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies at Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Heather’s research, which extends upon two decades as a dancer-choreographer among Iranian American communities, examines the lives and artistic works of diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists residing in North America and Western Europe. Heather engages in ethnography, discourse analysis, and performance analysis to investigate the racialized and gendered economies of Iranian performance in transnational art markets and among diasporic audiences. Her current book project, entitled Choreographing Freedom: The Politics of Dance in the Iranian Diaspora,investigates how global War on Terror biopolitics construct Iranian dancers as neoliberal subjects of freedom. Prompted by transnational discourses surrounding Iranian state restrictions on public dance performance, Heather’s research locates Iranian dancers within (neo)colonial histories of Euro-American “saving” practices and interrogates the neoliberal constructs of diasporic spaces as spaces of freedom. The book argues that, contrary to popular multicultural and humanist discourse surrounding dance practice, dance does not “transcend borders” within geopolitical conditions that govern the flow of certain racialized dancing bodies.