Golnar NikpourI am a scholar of modern Iranian intellectual, cultural, and political history and am currently writing my first book, tentatively entitled Prison Days: The History of Prisons and Punishment in Modern Iran. In this book, I explore the interplay between the modern Iranian prison and narratives told from and through that space. I explore the ways in which prisoners have evoked the anxiety-laden questions: who can be considered a citizen? How is state authority predicated on the suffering or rehabilitation of the prisoner’s body? In what ways does the prisoner enact and transform those very concepts — rights, nation, citizen, justice — that the state is attempting to define and control? Reading history from the late 19th century through the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this project shows that in this era in which novel legal reforms were fitfully enacted by a modernizing state, the prison cell came to have a public life in Iranian popular culture and intellectual discourses. Through these discourses the prison cell and the prisoner’s body paradoxically become sites for imagining political emancipation and testing the limits of justice in the modern nation-state.

My teaching interests include Modern Middle Eastern and North African history, Islamic history, Iranian studies, nationalism, political philosophy, postcolonialism, comparative revolutions, the history of human rights, gender studies, and critical prison studies.


  • PhD - Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS)
    Columbia University (2015)
  • MA - Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS)
    Columbia University (2010)
  • BA - Asian & Middle Eastern Studies & History, Barnard College (2003)

Selected Publications:

  • “Revolutionary Journeys, Revolutionary Practice: The Hajj Writings of Jalal Al-e Ahmad and Malcolm X,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Vol. 34, No. 1 (2014): 67-85.
  • “Struggle and Injury: Discourses of Human Rights and the Emergence of the Iranian Prison in Global Thought 1960-1979.” Forthcoming

Selected Awards:

  • 2014-15 Giles Whiting Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Columbia University
  • 2013-14 Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship
  • 2012-13 Institute for Research on Women & Gender Fellowship, Columbia University
  • 2012-13 Dissertation Fellowship, Columbia University

  • 2009-11 Teaching Fellowship, Columbia University

  • 2008-09 Graduate Fellowship, Columbia University

History Courses:

  • History 200: Gender and Modern Middle East and North Africa - Syllabus 2016 (pdf)
  • History 139: The Middle East in the 20th Century

Golnar Nikpour

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow


307 University Club

Office Hours: