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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 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 some poor, working class youth struggle to play by the rules of the game, 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 and limits 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 at-risk children. Examining how they enact their agency, the collection provides a unique cross-cultural perspective into children's aspirations and coping strategies as they strive to create full lives in the midst of uncertainty.

Image © Farzin Mahmoudzadeh