As part of the 2018-19 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program, the college will host Dr. Jamsheed Choksy of Indiana University Bloomington, an expert on the religious, historical, and political traditions of Central Eurasia.
Birmingham-Southern College will host Dr. Jamsheed Choksy, an expert on the religious, historical, and political traditions of Central Eurasia, for two days in April as part of the 2018-19 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program.
His talk, “State and Faith in Iran: Recent History as a Key to Understanding the Present,” will be held on Thursday, April 25 during Common Hour (11 a.m.) in the Norton Campus Center Theatre. He will discuss how Iran’s geography, natural resources, international relations, and domestic changes combined with foreign influences and interventions to produce a political system in which the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government—not dissimilar to those of the U.S.—become subordinate to a theocratic establishment.
Choksy will stay on campus through April 26, engaging with students and faculty in the college’s Harrison Honors Program and spending time in class with students in BSC’s humanities and social sciences programs.
“Shahs, ayatollahs, and protestors come to mind as stereotypical images of Iran in the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Choksy, who is a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. “Yet contemporary Iran has been shaped not just by kings, clergy, and uprisings.”
A leading academic authority on the Arab conquest of Iran and Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, and the spread of Islam, his writings and lectures explore why human existence is viewed as a struggle between good and evil and how beliefs and practices shape people’s lives and actions. Choksy’s research broadly covers the development of societies, especially sectarian communities, in Central Asia, the Near East, and South Asia, studied through interdisciplinary approaches involving history, religious studies, and politics, among others.
He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities and has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Guggenheim Foundation. His many publications include Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society, and his analyses have appeared on NPR, Huffington Post, and ABC News. He has conducted fieldwork in Iran, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, and several other countries.
Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has offered undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The program contributes to intellectual life on campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the visiting scholars and the resident faculty and students.