Farzaneh Hemmasi

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20112012 Forum on Adaptations

Farzaneh Hemmasi


Ph.D., Columbia University

Iranian Popular Music in Exile: Media, Politics, and Publics

As a postdoctoral fellow, I will transform my dissertation into a book manuscript. My dissertation is an ethnographic and historical study of the Iranian exile music industry that emerged in Southern California after popular music was banned in Iran following the 1978-79 Revolution. Drawing on interviews with musicians and media producers, my work demonstrates the many transformations Persian-language musiqi-ye pop has undergone since its inception in the 1950s from a symbol of cosmopolitan modernity, to a banned cultural form in the revolution, to a medium for exiles' aesthetic recombination and circulation of Iranian identifications. My work also traces the adaptations of musiqi-ye pop to dispersed geographic locations: I draw on reception studies I conducted in Tehran to account for the popularity of LA-produced pop in Iran, where it is illegal but widely consumed. The book manuscript expands my theoretical discussions of publics and transnationality and incorporates recent fieldwork. I also chronicle the explosion of popular music responding to the Green Movement, some of which incorporates revolutionary music from the 1970s. The project attests to popular musics' real and emergent role in constituting political participation while also demonstrating music's exceptional openness to ideological investment. This occasions reflections on the nature of cultural stability and change in social transformations.