OUR SCHOLARS | Dr. Sussan Babaie

Babaie Sussan

Sussan Babaie is a lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art where she teaches courses on the arts of Iran and Islam. Her research and teaching concern questions of imperialism and artistic patronage in Persianate West, Central, and South Asia, where high culture derived from the literary corpus of the Persian language. Prior to her arrival at Courtauld, Babaie taught at Smith College, the University of Michigan, and served as a visiting professor for the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich. Babaie received her education at various institutions such as: Tehran University (BA), American University (MA), and the Institute of Fine Arts (PhD).

She has published numerous book, chapters, and articles amongst which include: Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis, London: I. B. Tauris, (co-edited with Talinn Grigor); Shirin Neshat, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan, 2013 (co-author); Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi‘ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran (Edinburgh Press); Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran, London: I. B. Tauris, 2004 (co-author & co-editor with Kathryn Babayan, Ina Baghdiantz-McCabe and Massumeh Farhad); Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 (co-author with Marie Lukens Swietochowski).

“So we go in these waves of – first it was the women, and greater number of them appear. Shadi Ghadirian makes her name for those photographs of her friends dressed in chador costumes with the veil and so forth. There’s quite a community. In other words, if you were to look at the 1990s into early 2000, you will find a real cluster of young women from the region – but also, and particularly, from Iran – whose work is about ruminations on the issue of the veil and the women’s clothes and the body.”


“So much of Iran is about being these mixes of things, and a history that is very varied and full of tumultuous events, and ups and downs, and survivals, and flattening, and recovering, and reemerging, and flowering under most adverse circumstances.”


“And it was really permeated with the cult of the image of the ruler, essentially. Similar to what was in Iran of the period of the Shah, and Iran – or Iraq, of the period of Saddam Hussein. So you had the cult of the personality in charge across the sort of visual field, what we know from the Soviet Union period and many other such environments. But the case of Iran is very distinctive in that there’s a dialogue implicitly between what is the official visual, and what is the more private.”