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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Translations/Transpositions - 'Intergeneric' translation

Seminar: 25 March 2009 (Chair: Dr Saeed Talajooy, more ... )

Migration: Translations of Identity

A screening and discussion of three short films by Iranmian-American film director Shahrzad M Davis

Begoo (2005)

Life is Perhaps (2005)

A Letter Home (2009)

After the screening Sanaz Raji and Saeed Tal;ajooy will be in conversation with Shahzad, and who wil lead a discussion with the audience

Download the poster for this event (PDF format, 266KB)


The 1979 Iranian Revolution and the eight-year (1980-88) war with Iraq led to the dislocation of many people both inside and outside Iran. Today the statistics reflect that more than 4 million Iranians have left the country since 1979. Of course, this constant process of migration has left its negative impacts on the lives of people both within and without the country. But it has also led to some very positive developments and the formation of creative hyphenated identities that endeavour to maintain the best of both cultures and improve their cultural milieu as they try to make sense of their lives.

Any act of migration violently intensifies the process of conscious and unconscious forgetting and reinforcement that helps us constantly construct new selves in our encounter with everyday problems. It redefines every moment of our lives and breaks even temporary narratives that we create around our fragmented memories. Such a process also necessitates an overwhelming amount of self-translation. In fact, in its most extreme cases, migration becomes a question of translating one’s identity, skills and personality or living in a state of death in life. The most successful people have at times had to go through the extremes of beginning from below zero, particularly if they come from cultures which are pinned downed by the global media as evil or unapproachable.

Shahrzad M Davis’s film deals with the lives of first and second generation Iranian-Americans and how they have managed to construct their migratory identities in the face of those obstacles that impede them from discovering and fulfilling their full potential in their new environments. In Life is Perhaps (2005, 2min 52sec), a young Iranian woman who is trying to find a safe haven amidst the demands of her daily life thinks to herself, ‘Life is Perhaps’. In Begoo (2005, 14min 35sec), three Iranian-Americans are asked to speak up and tell their stories of creatively overcoming the daunting challenges of leaving Iran and settling in the United States. In A Letter Home (2009, 4min 32sec), a daughter of the Iranian Revolution recounts her search abroad for her mother's lost stories.


Shahrzad M. Davis is a polyglot activist anthropologist hailing from California- the land of golden dreams.  Making her Iranian mother and Anglo-American father proud, she received a master’s degree from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship upon her graduation from UC Berkeley.  True to the fabled enchantress inspiring her name, Shahrzad likes to retell stories from the diasporic frontiers through the pen and video.

Sanaz Raji is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds, examining the dynamics of subversive humour on the Internet created by second generation Iranians in the Diaspora as a larger discourse on the dynamics of being hyphenated Iranian in a post-September 11 th context. She has presented her findings concerning the Iranian Diaspora at the LSE, Sussex University, University of Manchester, Wolfson College, Oxford University, among others. Currently, she is finishing a chapter about the Iranian Diaspora for Zed Press. Sanaz Raji and Shahrzad M. Davis have collaborated on a paper about the Queer Iranian Diaspora and are in the process of working on a forthcoming film project.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

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