In my work, I use participant observation and interviews to center the everyday lives and emancipatory projects of marginalized, Middle Eastern groups living in economic insecurity. My current research projects focus on Iran and include the pursuit of status recognition among poor urban youth, the construction of dignity among socially stigmatized laborers, and the link between perceptions of belonging and changes in the physical urban landscape. Collectively, this research agenda takes a bottom-up look into how stigmatized identities are created, reproduced, and contested in efforts to claim cultural membership.

My research has been published in Qualitative Sociology, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and the Muslim World, among others. I have also written editorials and essays that have been published in various outlets including The Conversation, Muftah, and From the Square.

My first book, Coming of Age in Iran: Poverty and the Struggle for Dignity (NYU Press, 2020), is an in-depth ethnography of youth poverty in the cities of Sari and Tehran. Examining how poor, working class youth struggle to obey social norms to save face, the book elucidates how some young men and women are able to leverage community judgments for material rewards while others fall further behind. Broadly, Coming of Age in Iran considers the possibilities for social change embedded in poor urban youths’ silent and ordinary struggles for a better life.

Along with Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, I also co-edited the volume, Children in Crisis: Ethnographic Studies in International Contexts (Routledge, 2013). This collection brings together cutting-edge sociological and anthropological field research on the everyday lived experiences of crisis among children around the world. Examining how children enact their agency, the collection provides a unique cross-cultural perspective into the limitations and possibilities for social change that exist in the midst of uncertainty.

Image © Farzin Mahmoudzadeh