Keynote speakers: Love and devotion conference

Distinguished international guests and Australian experts who spoke at the Love and devotion Persian Cultural Crossroads conference on 12–14 April 2012 are listed here alphabetically by surname.

For information on the papers these speakers presented, see the conference program and paper abstracts.

Firuza Abdullaeva

Dr Firuza Abdullaeva is a graduate (BA, MA Hons) of the Iranian Philology Department, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University, where she received her PhD in Iranian philology, art and Islamic studies in 1989. She was an Associate Professor at the University of St Petersburg when she joined the Cambridge Shahnama Project in 2002 after a term at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and a term at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) as a Fulbright Professor. From September 2005 until September 2010 she was Lecturer in Persian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Keeper of the Firdousi Library of Wadham College. Since October 2010 she has been the Head of the Shahnama Centre, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. Her main research interests include classical Persian literature, medieval Persian book art, travelogue literature of the Qajar period and Russian orientalism in Persia and Central Asia.

Mammad Aidani

Dr Mammad Aidani has taught and conducted research at the University of Melbourne in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies for five years. Prior to this he taught in the Department of Performance and Theatre Studies at Victoria University for four years and spent eight years as Director of the Writing Department at the Footscray Community Arts Centre. He has a PhD in hermeneutics and phenomenological psychology from the Department of Psychology, Victoria University, and an MA in sociolinguistics and identity from the University of Melbourne. His teaching and research interests are in the genres of displacement, diaspora history and narrative, memory studies and theatre and creative writing. He has also worked with local community groups in the areas of identity and the role of creative writing and storytelling in the wellbeing of refugee and migrant communities. His recent publications include the book Welcoming the stranger: narratives of identity and belonging in an Iranian diaspora (Common Ground, 2010) and the journal articles 'Existential accounts of Iranian displacement and the cultural meanings of categories' in Journal of intercultural studies ( Routledge, 2010) and 'Iranian poetic testimonies of revolution, trauma and displacement' in Journal of Australian feminist studies (2011). As part of his ARC Research Fellowship, his current research project focuses on 'perceptions, interpretations and ways of trauma and suffering amongst Iranian diaspora men'.

Ali Alizadeh

Dr Ali Alizadeh is a Melbourne-based author and scholar whose books include the poetry collection Ashes in the air (University of Queensland Press, 2011; shortlisted for the Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry) and Iran: my grandfather (Transit Lounge Publishing, 2010; shortlisted for a NSW Premier's Literary Award). His poetry has been published in various Australian anthologies. He has also translated, with Dr Ken Avery, a selection of works by the medieval Persian poet ʿAttar of Nishapur's ghazals, published as Fifty poems of Attar (, 2007). He wrote free-verse English versions of a number of poems by the classical Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi as song lyrics for Shannon-Goodrich Ensemble's jazz CD Worlds within worlds (Newmarket Music, 2008). His own poems and translations of Rumi and Hafiz formed the basis of the theatrical performance A Sufi valentine (La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, 2004).

Barbara Brend

Dr Brend is an independent scholar whose research focuses on form and meaning in Persian and Mughal manuscript illustration. Her publications include the books Islamic art (1991), The Emperor Akbar’s Khamsa of Nizāmī (1995), Perspectives on Persian painting: illustrations to Amīr Khusrau's Khamsah (2003), Muhammad Juki's Shahnamah of Firdausi (2010) and, with Charles Melville, Epic of the Persian kings (2010).

Gay Breyley

Dr Gay Breyley is a cultural historian and adjunct research associate in the School of Music–Conservatorium at Monash University, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 2008. She was awarded an Endeavour Research Fellowship (Austraining International) in 2010, hosted by the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran. Her research focuses on musical and literary cultures in Iran and the Iranian diaspora. She is co-author with Sasan Fatemi of Iranian music and popular entertainment: from Motrebi to Losanjelesi and beyond (2012). She has also published articles in journals including The Asian Arts Society of Australia Review, Context, Musicology Australia, New Formations, Antipodes, Ethnomusicology Forum and Life Writing.

Stefano Carboni

Dr Stefano Carboni was appointed Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia in October 2008. Previously he was Curator and Administrator in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Visiting Professor at the Bard Graduate Center for the Decorative Arts, in New York. He joined the curatorial staff at the Metropolitan Museum in 1992 after completing his graduate studies in Arabic and in Islamic art at the University of Venice and his PhD in Islamic art at the University of London. At the Metropolitan Museum he has been responsible for many exhibitions, including the acclaimed Venice and the Islamic world, 828–1797 (2006–2007).

He has written and edited exhibition and collection publications including Glass of the sultans (2001), the Barr Award-winning The legacy of Genghis Khan: courtly arts and culture in western Asia, 1256–1353 (2002), Venice and the Islamic world (2007) and Glass from Islamic lands: The Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait National Museum (2001). He has lectured widely and taught courses in Islamic art and curatorial studies at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU), Hunter College (CUNY) and the Bard Graduate Center.

Mario Casari

Dr Mario Casari studied Persian and Arabic languages in the Faculty of Arts, Sapienza University of Rome, and in 2001 he obtained a PhD in Iranian Studies at the Oriental University Institute in Naples. Currently, he is Lecturer in Arabic Language and Literature and in Persian Language and Literature at the Italian Institute of Oriental Studies, Sapienza University of Rome. His research, which has appeared in a number of scholarly publications, deals mainly with the circulation of texts and cultural relations between Europe and the Islamic world from medieval times to the modern age; medieval narrative literature, with special attention to the eastern travel of the Alexander romance (Alessandro e Utopia nei romanzi persiani medievali, 1999; Alessandro alla Terra delle Tenebre, forthcoming); oriental studies in Europe; Arabic and Persian medieval gastronomic literature (Il cuoco di Baghdad, 2003) and the history of children's literature in Iran and the Arab world. Dr Casari was appointed Andrew W Mellon Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence, in 2008–09; he is now working on a long-term project on the birth of modern Arabic and Persian Studies in Renaissance Italy.

Anne Démy-Geroe

Anne Démy-Geroe is writing a PhD on Iranian cinema at the University of Queensland. She lectures in Asia-Pacific cinema at Griffith Film School and is a co-director of the recently established Iranian Film Festival Australia. She is a board member of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema and is on the Nominations Council for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

She was the inaugural Artistic Director of the Brisbane International Film Festival, from 1991 to 2010. She has attended the Fajr Film Festival in Tehran annually since 2002, twice as a jury member. She was a judge for the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards from 2001 to 2010, and is a past Council Member of the National Film and Sound Archive. In 2003 she was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal for services to the film industry.

Süleyman Derin


Dr Süleyman Derin was born in Kutahya, Turkey, and graduated from the Faculty of Theology at Marmara University, Istanbul, in 1991. He started working in the same faculty in 1991 as a research assistant. After completing his Masters in Istanbul, he received his PhD in 1999 at Leeds University, UK, with a thesis entitled Towards some paradigms on the Sufi conception of love: from Râbia to Ibn al-Fârid. Since 1999, he has taught in Marmara University's Faculty of Theology while working as an Associate Professor in the Sufi Studies department. He is interested in the subjects of love in Sufism, Sufi commentaries on the Qurʾan and transpersonal psychology. Dr Derin's recent publications include 'The alternative way of retribution in the Sufi philosophy of justice in Turkey' in Conflicts and conflict resolution in Middle Easterna societies – between tradition and modernity (ed. Hans-Jörg Albrecht, Duncker Humbolt, 2006, pp. 620–36), and 'Whoever loses himself finds Me, and whoever finds me never loses Me again', Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society (No. 42, 2007).

Lesley Forbes

Lesley Forbes was Keeper of Oriental Collections in the Bodleian Library, and a Professorial Fellow at St Cross College, University of Oxford, UK, from 1999 until her retirement in 2008. Previously she was Keeper of Oriental Books (1973–90), and Sub-Librarian (1990–98) at Durham University Library, UK. At the Bodleian Library in Oxford, she managed the extensive collections relating to Asia and North Africa and ran externally funded projects to improve access to them. She was involved in the Library's exhibitions program, making major contributions to Medieval views of the cosmos: mapping earth and sky at the time of the Book of Curiosities (2004) and The flower garden of spring (2006), which featured the Library's rich collection of paintings and manuscript illustrations from Mughal India.

Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers

Dr Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers is Assistant Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies, University of Western Australia and Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council Centre for the History of Emotions 1100–1800. She is passionate about the history of ideas, and her research focuses specifically on the history of love and courtship, the history of literary genres, the literature of exile, the nexus of philosophy, religion and poetry of the medieval and early modern periods, and the works of William Shakespeare. Danijela is also an award-winning poet, and her poetry, written in Serbian and English, has been published and anthologised across the cultural space of the former Yugoslavia, Europe and Australia and translated into French, Dutch, Russian and Polish.

Shelley Meagher

Dr Shelley Meagher is a Melbourne writer and academic. She holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford and has held lectureships at Oxford and Queen's University Belfast and fellowships from the British Academy, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She has published articles in various journals and edited collections and has a chapter forthcoming in a book on narrative and history to be published by Oxford University Press. Shelley's doctoral thesis investigated knowledge and representations of Islam in British and Irish literature from 1660 to 1850. Her other areas of research expertise are cosmopolitanism and intellectual patronage in Romantic Britain and Ireland and the relationship between poetry and music in the Romantic era.

Charles Melville

Dr Charles Melville is Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College, and is currently Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies. He has been Director since 1999 of the Shahnama Project and President since 2006 of The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA), both based in Cambridge. His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods (13th–17th centuries) and the illustration of Persian manuscripts, and he is currently researching the illustration of history in Persian manuscripts. He has travelled regularly to Iran and Central Asia. Recent publications include edited volumes of Safavid Persia (1996) and Shahnama Studies (2006); 'Millennium of the Shahnama of Firdausi' (Iranian Studies, 2010, with Firuza Abdullaeva); and Persian Historiography (2011). He is joint author of The Persian Book of Kings: Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama (2008, also with Firuza Abdullaeva) and Epic of the Persian kings: the art of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (2010, with Barbara Brend).

Susan Scollay

Susan Scollay is an art historian and curator specialising in the Islamic world. She is guest co-curator of the exhibition Love and devotion: from Persia and beyond and editor of the exhibition publication. The project developed from her ongoing doctoral research at La Trobe University, Melbourne, in the course of which she visited the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, to study MS. Ouseley 133, the Dilsuznama of Badiʿ al-Din Manuchihr al-Tahiri al-Tabrizi. This 15th-century manuscript , which tells a charming version of the love story of the rose and the nightingale, is one of 70 rare works that has travelled from Oxford to Melbourne for the Love and devotion exhibition.

Marcelo Stamm

Dr Marcelo Stamm studied philosophy, literature and theory of sciences at Munich University and at Oxford. He received his PhD in 1994 from LMU Munich and took a higher doctorate ('Habilitation') in 2002. He brings two decades of work to the contemporary study of creativity: firstly in the area of philosophical constellation research, particularly on the emergence of early German idealism; and secondly in topological research on the metaphysics of inside and outside, surface and boundary in Wittgenstein and beyond.

He was appointed Head of School of the Philosophy Department at the University of Tasmania in 2003 and became chief investigator of two Australian Research Council grants in 2007. In 2010 he was appointed Director of the Australian Innovation Research Centre's Creativity Research Project. He is currently an External Teaching Fellow at LMU Munich, Honorary Fellow of the Australian Innovation Research Centre, Research Fellow of Venice International University and, since 2012, Vice-Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University. 

Zahra Taheri

Dr Zahra Taheri is the Convenor of the Persian Program at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University. Born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, Dr Taheri received her BA in Persian language and literature from Pahlavi/ Shiraz University, her MA in Persian literature from the Research Institute of Persian Culture in Tehran, and her PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has taught Persian literature and language in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and the Department of Persian Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Dr Taheri is the author of The presence and absence of women in Sufi texts: women in Persian mythical literature from the beginning of the Islamic era to 1900 (ILCAA Press, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2007); The ancient silence of mirrors: Alamtaj Ghaem-Maghami’s life and poetry (Nashr-e Sales, Tehran, in print); and two collections of poetry, Pegãh-e Nokhostin (The primal dawn, 1997) and Milãd (The birth, 1990).

Alasdair Watson

Alasdair Watson is Curator of Islamic Manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries. He graduated with honours in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and received an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Edinburgh. He worked as an Arabic-English-Arabic translator for the cultural sector before pursuing his interest in manuscripts in the Arabic script. He edited Professor Emilie Savage-Smith's catalogue of the Bodleian Libraries' Arabic medical manuscripts (soon to be published by Oxford University Press), and managed the creation of an online catalogue (for the Fihrist project) of Islamic manuscripts in the collections of the Bodleian Libraries and Cambridge University Library. His interests include classical Arabic and Persian language and literature, Islamic studies and comparative religion, Sufism and translation studies. He has travelled widely in the Middle East.

Hossein Valamanesh

Hossein Valamanesh graduated from the School of Fine Art in Tehran in 1970 and immigrated to Australia in 1973. He has exhibited in Australia and overseas, including Germany, Poland, Japan and Finland, and has completed a number of major public art commissions. He has collaborated with Angela Valamanesh on works including An Gorta Mor, a memorial to the Great Irish Famine for Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney; 14 pieces for North Terrace, Adelaide; and Ginkgo gate for the Botanic Gardens, Adelaide. He collaborated with Brink Productions, Andrew Bovell and Quentin Grant on the stage design for When the rain stops falling (Adelaide Festival of Arts, 2008).

Hossein has received numerous awards including the Australia Council Residency in Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 1991, and an Australia Council Fellowship in 1998. His work is included in most major public Australian art collections, and the Art Gallery of South Australia held a major survey of his work in 2001. He is represented by Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide, and the monograph Hossein Valamanesh: out of nothingness was recently published by Wakefield Press.

Clare Williamson

Clare Williamson is Exhibitions Curator at the State Library of Victoria. Together with Susan Scollay she is the co-curator of the exhibition Love and devotion: from Persia and beyond. With generous funding from the Gordon Darling Foundation, she undertook curatorial research for the exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in 2009 and 2010. At the State Library of Victoria she has curated numerous exhibitions including the permanent exhibitions The changing face of Victoria and Mirror of the world: books and ideas (co-curated with Des Cowley). She was co-author of The world of the book (with Des Cowley, 2007). Clare has previously worked as a curator at the Queensland
Art Gallery and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Melbourne).