Azar Nafisi, PhD, is a visiting professor and the executive director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she is a professor of aesthetics, culture, and literature, and teaches courses on the relation between culture and politics.
Born in Iran, Nafasi is renowned as the author of the 2003 beloved international best-selling memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and a second memoir, published in 2009, in which she returns to Iran and her childhood, Things I’ve Been Silent About.
Nafisi held a fellowship at Oxford University, teaching and conducting a series of lectures on culture and the important role of Western literature and culture in Iran after the revolution in 1979. She has also taught at the University of Tehran (from which she was expelled as a student in 1981 for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil), the Free Islamic University, and Allameh Tabatabai before settling permanently in the United States in 1997, earning national respect and international recognition for advocating on behalf of Iran’s intellectuals, youth, and especially young women.
Nafisi has conducted workshops in Iran for women students on the relationship between culture and human rights; the material culled from these workshops formed the basis of a new human rights education curriculum. She has lectured and written extensively in English and Persian on the political implications of literature and culture, as well as the human rights of the Iranian women and girls and the important role they play in the process of change for pluralism and an open society in Iran.
Nafisi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Her cover story, “The Veiled Threat: The Iranian Revolution’s Woman Problem” published in The New Republic in 1999 has been reprinted into several languages.