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Iran & Persian Studies

California is a major site of the Iranian diaspora: an estimated 500,000 Iranians live in the state.  Acknowledging the important contribution of generations of Iranian and Afghan immigrants in California and the US, UC Davis developed its Iran and Persian Studies Minor to play an important role in educating “heritage” students, and to share the very rich linguistic, literary, and historical heritage of Iran and other Persianate cultures with the public.

Endowments from the Iranian-American community have facilitated the growth of Iran and Persian Studies as an area of study at UC Davis.  The PARSA Community Foundation Endowment in 2010 created the PARSA visiting lectureship. Wendy DeSouza, an historian of modern Iran, has taught in that position since 2012-2013.  In 2015, a major gift from philanthropist Bita Daryabari and matching funds from the Office of the UC President and the Office of the Chancellor at UC Davis created the Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature to build on UC Davis’s existing strengths in these areas.  In 2017, Amy Motlagh joined the faculty as the inaugural Bita Darybari Presidential Chair, becoming one of half a dozen faculty members at Davis who work with students in the Iranian Studies Minor.  Collectively, these faculty members’ expertise covers a wide-reaching period:  modern and classical Persian language and literature; Iranian cinema; the modern and pre-modern history of Iran and Persianate societies; modern Iranian art and architecture; and the legacy of Persianate culture in modern Turkey, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and the broader Middle East region. Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, the Daryabari endowment will support a variety of public lectures and events. 

For more information about the endowment, please see:

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Following the campus guidelines for Coronavirus all UC Davis classes, lectures, seminars, labs and discussion sections will move to virtual instruction and remain virtual through the end of spring quarter 2020, including final exams. Given this, the department’s administrative functions have moved to remote work conditions. To contact staff members of the department via e-mail or phone, please go to our administrative staff contact page.