New Website--Women's World's in Qajar Iran
In March 2011, Professor Afsaneh Najmabadi visited the University of Virginia to present her latest research in a talk entitled, "Genus of Sex: How Jins Became Sex in Iran,” co-sponsored by the Departments of History, Middle Eastern Studies, and Studies in Women and Gender. Najmabadi is Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, and her published works include the edited volume Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire (2008), Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity (2005), and The Story of Daughters of Quchan: Gender and National Memory in Iranian History (1998). During her visit, Professor Najmabadi also held a seminar in which she introduced the new website for the digital history project she directs, which has received generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities among other sources. According to Najmabadi, this website, http://www.qajarwomen.org/, could provide the source material for numerous studies examining the history of Iranian women during the Qajar era (1796-1925).
Available in both Persian and English languages, the site contains some 12,000 images of art, antique objects, photographs, letters, legal and financial papers, manuscripts, and translations, as well as oral history interviews. Many of these primary sources were scanned or photographed by the project staff in private homes in the United States, Europe, and Iran, dramatically expanding the sources on the period beyond those in archives or museums. In some instances, researchers were even able to record interviews with family members about the items which they were contributing to the project. The website is able to trace women’s public and private lives through these sources.
The site is user-friendly for both the serious researcher and for broader audiences interested in art, literature, women’s history, or the history of Iran. It can be browsed by genre of item, people, places, subjects, collection, or historical period. This impressive website also boasts very high resolution images, which allow the researcher to examine the items closely. As Professor Najmabadi predicted on her visit to the University of Virginia, this site will likely reshape the study of women in Iran by dramatically expanding the available resources on the Qajar period. For this reason, it reflects the ways in which innovations in digital history can create new directions in academic research.