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Dissertation Award

The best PhD dissertation on a theme of Iranian Studies is chosen based on several criteria, including imagination, novelty of approach, clarity in stating the problematic, theoretical foundation, methodological rigor, efficient and intelligent use of primary source material, and quality of fieldwork, among others.

The Foundation may also recognize up to two runner-up dissertations with honorable mention and subject to budgetary considerations and the decision of an advisory board of readers, may also help towards the publication of outstanding dissertations.

Each year the award is granted to a dissertation approved during that academic year and announced in October/November of the year for which it is granted.

Dissertations must be nominated by the author's advisor and be accompanied by the Dissertation Committee's letter of acceptance. A digitized copy of the dissertation must be submitted by August 15 either on a disc to

Foundation for Iranian Studies
Suite 200, 4343 Montgomery Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

or emailed to
fis@fis-iran.org or

Notice of the awards appears in the MESA and ISIS mail lists and journals, in Iran Nameh, and in various Persian language and other academic publications. It will also be posted on the FIS website.

The award for 2013 was conferred on Ata Anzali on November 8, 2013 with the following announcement.

 Foundation for Iranian Studies

Announcement of the Recipient of Award


The Best Ph.D. Dissertation on a Topic of Iranian Studies, 2013


November 8, 2013


The Foundation for Iranian Studies is pleased to announce that the Committee on Selection of the Best Dissertation of the Year on a Topic of Iranian Studies of the Foundation for Iranian Studies has chosen Dr. Ata Anzali’s dissertation “Safavid Shi`ism, the Eclipse of Sufism and the Emergence of `Irfan” submitted to the Faculty of Religious Studies at Rice University as the recipient of the Foundation's annual Ph.D. dissertation award for the academic year 2012-2013.

In making its decision, the Committee, following the criteria established by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, noted that Ata Anzali has made an "exceptional contribution to the field of Iranian Studies” by, among other achievements, “stating clearly the study’s problematic… constructing an adequate and efficient theoretical framework…developing and using successfully a rigorous methodology to bring together a significant array of primary and secondary sources, including several hitherto unknown or unpublished sources, to support an innovative approach to the study of the effects of the rise of Shi`a hierocracy under the Safavids on Iran’s subsequent political, social, and cultural evolution … adducing convincingly and delineating meticulously the reasons why and the methods by which the Shi`a hierocracy was enabled to sway the court and the people to force the demise of Sufism in order to curtail religious choice, and how, ironically, the success of the project led in time to the emergence of `irfan, a mystical mode of thought oriented to individual choice and tuned to universalist values, suggesting an abiding tension between freedom and authority in Iran even before the advent of modernity… exemplifying successfully the continuing tension between authority and freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran by identifying `irfan as a salient point of conflict between the clerical quest for control and the contemporary youth’s propensity to self-expression … arguing cogently that modernization, though influenced by Western experience, is a function of a people’s history and culture evolving through time, behooving analytical approaches that shun Western or Eastern ghettoization … excellent organization of the work.”

The Committee also cited Dr. Justine Landau’s dissertation “De Rythme et de raison: lecture croisée de deux traités de poétique persane du XIIIe siècle” submitted to the Faculty of the School of Languages, Civilizations and Oriental Societies at Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, and Dr. Manata Hashemi’s dissertation “Social Mobility among Poor Youth in Iran” submitted to the Graduate Division of the University of California at Berkeley, with honorable mention for superior scholarship, originality, clarity, and significant contribution to Iranian Studies.

Notice of the awards will appear in the Foundation’s interactive web, in Iran Nameh, MESA and ISIS journals, and in various Persian and English language academic publications.


Gholam Reza Afkhami


Ph.D. Dissertation Awards Committee


Foundation for Iranian Studies


 To see a list of the recipients of the Foundation's award over the past

years, Click here.