Why Host a World Savvy Salon?
In a world where media tends to focus more on celebrities than on pressing global issues, it is challenging to find reliable sources of quality international news coverage and opportunities to discuss the meaning and impact of global events and trends.
This is ironic, given that we are at a time in which our lives are inexorably connected to the lives of people around the world in ways previously unimaginable. Even so, American mainstream media coverage of international affairs has declined. The result is a public which lacks the capacity to meaningfully discuss world affairs around the dinner table and, by extension, around the negotiating table in halls of power as global problem solvers.
The World Savvy Salon is a forum for individuals to convene and discuss these pressing issues. Salons are Book Clubs for the 21st Century. The World Savvy Monitor provides you with the content, context and tools to organize a Salon in your school or community. By focusing on one global issue or region each month, the Monitor and Salons are designed for participants to:
- Inform themselves about critical world affairs
- Gather with a group of curious global citizens to discuss the issues, challenges and solutions on the world stage and in your own backyard.
- Host a dinner party with a purpose: to educate, to inspire, to promote global citizenship.
Salon participants bring diverse perspectives and backgrounds– from history, science, technology, psychology, law, finance, art, education, politics, community action, and parenting – to bear on each conversation. All sides of important global issues can be dissected; films and books are recommended; and future collaborations devised, from work and travel to philanthropy and activism. Salons can spark brainstorming and debate over how to talk to others and our children about the world.
- Be part of a new movement: the book club, reinvented. Start a World Savvy Salon today using the World Savvy Monitor:
- Each member of your Salon subscribes online to the World Savvy Monitor. Individual subscriptions are $75/year (per month, less than the cost of a hardback book). Register your Salon with World Savvy and all members receive a 20% discount on subscriptions.
- Members receive and read the bi-monthly edition and convene for a World Savvy Salon to discuss the latest Monitor issue.
- Use the World Savvy Monitor website for Salon Guides with discussion questions to spark conversation.
- Invite speakers with expertise in various areas relevant to Monitor topics to present to the group – these could be experts, photographers, activists, or just people who have traveled worldwide or are particularly passionate or well-informed about world affairs.
- Engage in community education, advocacy, volunteerism, activism, and/or philanthropy around the issues raised.
- Find ways to bring your children into the discussion and engage their peers.
- Communicate with your schools and workplaces about how global citizenship can be nurtured and expressed in these settings.
This Month’s Edition: Iran
Possible Discussion Questions
- What roles do ancient cultural anchors and religion play in modern Iran? How do these influence its foreign policy objectives as well?
- Consider the legacy of Iran’s relations with the West over time, as represented by Britain and the United States. How does this history impact current geopolitics? Do you believe rapprochement is feasible?
- How does Iran factor into other strategic interests of the United States in the region and around the world?
- Compare the costs, benefits, and likely successes of the options facing the Obama Administration with respect to Iran: containment, confrontation, and engagement.
- What impact do you believe globalization will have on “closed” societies such as Iran in the future? Can traditional and modern influences be reconciled?
- Is the political dominance and cultural hegemony of the clerics in any danger from within Iran? If Khatami is elected again, is it likely that reform agenda will succeed?
- How will the current global economic crisis impact Iran? How will this influence both domestic politics and foreign relations?
- Critique the current proposal on the table to make concessions to Russia on US ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in exchange for Russian help on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program.
- Can the world realistically live with a nuclear Iran? Why or why not? Examine the concept of international “nuclear justice.” Should some countries be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, while others cannot? How and why have other countries been persuaded to abandon their nuclear weapons programs? How does the threat of a nuclear Iran compare with that of a nuclear Pakistan? What about a nuclear North Korea?
Books and Readings
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, by Hooman Majd
Hooman Majd is an Iranian-American journalist and businessman who combines an insider’s knowledge of how Iran works with a remarkable ability to explain its history and quirks to Western readers. His book portrays a balanced and vivid illustration of the Islamic Republic’s people, culture, and politics. Especially interesting are his conversations with Iranian citizens from all walks of life.
The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between and Iran and America, by Kenneth M. Pollack
This detailed examination of American-Iranian relations over time provides excellent context for considering current geopolitical intrigue. Written by a former National Security Council official and current Brookings Institution expert with insider knowledge of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi
This famous memoir by former Tehran University professor captures the experience of intellectual life among women in the Islamic Republic. Told through the story of a group of women students who gathered in her home to read forbidden Western classics, Nafisi provides a rare window on Iranian culture and politics. See also her new memoir published in 2009.
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
This is Marjane Satrapi’s wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Tehran, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. Volume 2 illustrates Satrapi’s life as a young adult, living in Europe, and returning to Iran as a young woman. Also an award-winning film (see below).
All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
Kinzer has reconstructed the CIA’s 1953 overthrow of the elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, who was wildly popular at home for having nationalized his country’s oil industry. The coup ushered in the long and brutal dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah, widely seen as a US puppet and himself overthrown by the Islamic revolution of 1979. Kinzer combed memoirs, academic works, government documents, and news stories to produce this blow-by-blow account, which reads somewhat like a spy novel.
Ancient Iran: Inside a Nation’s Persian Soul, National Geographic
The August 2008 cover story from National Geographic looks at the effects of the legacy of the Persian Empire on the culture and society of Iran today. The article examines some of the archaeological heritage throughout Iran as a window into the psyche of the Iranian people.
Iran: A People Interrupted, by Hamid Dabashi
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. The position is America’s oldest and most prestigious endowed academic chair in Iranian studies. The book is a concise account of Iranian history from the 19th Century to the present. Dabashi captures the connections between art, cinema, history, and politics, from both an American and Iranian perspective, as well as delivering a particularly transnational perspective of modern, cosmopolitan, and globalized experiences.
Blood and Oil: the Middle East in World War I, PBS
This documentary examines the interplay of the discovery of oil and Middle East politics. After the end of World War I, most of the Ottoman Empire was carved up into “spheres of influence,” controlled greatly by the British and French. The remaining territories became the modern state of Turkey in 1923, after a five-year struggle against Western domination. The film traces the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the Great War in October 1914, the Allied victory and declaration of the new Turkish Republic, and the hostilities that have plagued the region since.
Forbidden Iran, PBS, FRONTLINE/World
This short film is a harrowing report from inside Iran, where FRONTLINE/World reporter Jane Kokan risked her life to secretly film evidence of the torture and murder of students and journalists opposed to the regime. Kokan, in disguise, escaped the constant surveillance of Iranian authorities to interview underground and jailed activists.
Showdown With Iran, PBS, FRONTLINE/World
This documentary from 2007 examines the rise of Iran as one of America’s greatest threats and most puzzling foreign policy challenges. Through interviews with key players on both sides, FRONTLINE traces the tumultuous history of U.S./Iranian relations since 9/11 – from unprecedented early cooperation in Afghanistan, to the growing crisis over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Tehran’s open threats to drive America out of the Middle East. Accompanying Lesson Plans
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
This is the true story of Marjane Satrapi, a woman who grew up in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This animated film, based on Satrapi’s celebrated graphic novel, illustrates her feelings and thought processes as a little girl and young adult, following her as government control in Iran got more and more strict. We also watch her struggle with adolescent issues, geographic separation from her family, and the repression of her freedoms as a woman. The movie blends both historical facts and personal issues into a compelling narrative.
The Films of Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami is one of Iran’s most prolific and celebrated filmmakers. He has made or been involved in more than 40 films, including Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us. As a member of the Iranian New Wave, Kiarostami is one of the few film directors to have remained in Iran after the 1979 Revolution. He has been honored at several international film festivals, including the Akria Kurosawa Prize at the 2000 San Francisco Film Festival.
Websites and Multimedia
Maps of War
The website contains a short flash animation about empires in the Middle East, answering the question: “Who has conquered the Middle East over the course of world events”? Using maps and timelines, the animation illustrates that many groups have, at one time, controlled the region – Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans, etc.
Bridge to Iran
This series of documentary shorts, available from Link TV, seeks to provide a unique glimpse into the lives of ordinary Iranians. It aims to shatter preconceived notions about a nation and culture that many Americans know little about and have never experienced firsthand. The series covers a wide range of subjects: young girls facing womanhood within an Islamic society; religious pilgrims who risk their lives to visit a holy site in Iraq; rural life and political awareness; and an energetic and surprising exploration of Tehran as a mega metropolis.
Unwrapping Iran, NPR
This 2009 series from NPR features a number of stories about modern Iran, for the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. A wide array of voices and perspectives are represented, from coffee shop customers to government leaders. Among the issues examined are Iran’s politics, economy and controversial nuclear program, as well as human rights struggles, censorship, and the Islamic Revolution.