The Saidi-Sirjani Award is granted biennially by the International Society for Iranian Studies on behalf of the Persian Heritage Foundation. Established in 1995, the purpose of the Award is to promote and encourage scholarship in the field of Iranian studies, as well as to honor the memory of Ali-Akbar Saidi-Sirjani (1931-1994), the noted Iranian historian, literary critic, and author, in appreciation for his scholarship, his courage, and his indefatigable struggle for freedom of expression.
Works qualifying for the prize will consist of (a) original studies or syntheses in Persian, English, and European languages of a topic in the Iranian field; (b) critical editions of significant texts in an Iranian languages; and (c) translations from an Iranian language, only if accompanied by scholarly annotations requiring extensive research. Works of fiction and poetry, and edited collections are excluded. To be considered fort the prize, works should be of monograph length and published by a recognized publishing house. The Award currently carries a cash stipend of $2,000 for the First Prize and $500 for each of two Honorable Mentions. For a list of the past award recipients, click here
Books considered for the 2012 Award should be published in 2010 or 2011. The deadline for submission is January 1, 2012. The award will be announced at the 2012 Biennial.
Note to Publishers: Please contact the Committee Chair Professor Rudi Matthee. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two copies of nominated books should be sent to Professor Rudi Matthee, Department of History, Munroe Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19713.
The joint recipients of the 2012 Saidi-Sirjani Book Award are: Barbara Brend for her book 'Muhammad Juki's Shahnamah of Firdausi'. Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland; London: Philip Wilson, 2010 and David Durand-Guedy for his book 'Iranian Elites and Turkish Rulers: A History of Isfahan in the Saljuq Period. Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge, 2010.
The 2008-2009 Saidi-Sirjani Award was awarded to:
Fakhreddin Azimi, The Quest for Democracy in Iran: A Century of Struggle against Authoritarian Rule (Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press, 2008).
Dr Azimi’s study is a survey of modern political history of Iran covering, as the title suggests, the twentieth century, from the post-constitutional era and the early Pahlavi period to the present, with the greater emphasis on the post-1953 era, the Islamic Revolution and the post-revolutionary period. In many ways this is a sequel to his earlier Iran: The Crisis of Democracy. Relying on Persian correspondence and memoirs as well on British and American diplomatic correspondence and published sources, it offers one of the best accounts to date of the period with a special emphasis on the role of the state as the agent of change but also as a hindrance to the emergence of civil society and the democratic process that was initiated with the Constitutional Revolution. Azimi is particularly successful in his critical portrayal of the reign of the Pahlavis (both Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah), the emergence of the technocratic class and the adoption of policies in the 1970’s as the root causes of the revolution of 1979. His portrayal of the royal ambitions and accomplishments as well as glaring shortcomings in domestic and foreign policies is altogether evenhanded. He writes with great style and command of the sources.
First Honorable Mention goes to:
Michele Bernardini, Mémoire et propagande à l’époque timouride (Paris: Association pour l’avancement des études iranniennes, 2008).
Dr Bernardini examines the myth of the fourteenth-century Central Asian warlord Timur Lang through the propaganda conducted by the historians in the ruler’s entourage and subsequent literati concerned to transform this Turkic warrior into a legitimate Islamic-Iranian ruler. Bernardini shows how they reconstructed the history of Timur’s origins, how they forced an appropriately aristocratic genealogy for him, how they presented his conquests as religiously inspired gazi efforts, and how they legitimized him by forging a Persianate kingly image. Bernardini is especially good showing how historians went about this repackaging, using the Persian language as an instrument of propaganda, and how the myth of Timur came to create an ideological link between the Mongols and the Safavids. This is an important historiographical study, sophisticated in its use of the sources, and one that proves that one does not have to rely on an elaborate theoretical framework to be revealing and illuminating. It offers great insight into the use of language as a premodern propaganda tool, and brilliantly demonstrates the use of memory as employed by the historians of the time in their effort to offer an “improved” image of Timur.
Second Honorable Mention goes to:
Yuka Kadoi: Islamic Chinoiserie: The Art of Mongol Iran. Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009).
Yuka Kadoi’s monograph addresses the question of the artistic interaction between Iran and China during the Mongol period, offering a nuanced view of the complex process of wholesale borrowing and integration. It covers all of the major media, from textiles, ceramics, metalwork to manuscript painting, but what sets it above many other works on the arts of Mongol Iran is the author’s command of several languages, including Persian, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, and her knowledge of the primary sources and the secondary works published in them. Such familiarity allows her to draw up a new range of comparative material. For instance, she introduces examples of block-printed books and maps that must have been widely available in Mongol Iran and provided ready sources for the new art of manuscript illustration. The straightforward and accessible text is complemented by some 125 plates, most in color, including many details that actually show the reader what she is talking about. This is a thorough and readable publication by a young scholar who should be encouraged to continue her work on the interaction of Iran and the East.