Prof. Dr. Behnaz Mirzai

Senior Guest Researcher 

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
June 2024–September 2024

Brock University, Canada

Title of current research project: "Cultural Identity of the Saharan and Indian Ocean communities"

Behnaz Mirzai.jpeg
© Behnaz Mirzai

Academic Profile

My primary interest is the history of the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a focus on former African slave communities and their relationships with other ethnic groups, as well as African-derived religious practices, various forms of African spirit-possession cults, and the transformation of these cults in Iran and the Middle East in the modern period. I have also examined the circumstances of various enslaved ethnic groups in Iran and around the Indian Ocean.

My book A History of Slavery and Emancipation in Iran, 1800–1929, was finalist for the 2018 Canadian Historical Association Wallace K. Ferguson Prize. It is the first systematic exploration and the only book wholly dedicated to slavery in Iran in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Relying on historical and anthropological methodologies, I have conducted fieldworks in Sistan and Baluchistan, and southern provinces in Iran and produced two documentary films, Afro-Iranian Lives, and The African-Baluchi Trance Dance. The former film won the prize Special Mention at the 10th annual Zanzibar International Film Festival.

My previous book project, Mahboob [Sweetheart]: The Journey of an Enslaved African to Iran, a Memoire, is currently being prepared for publication.

since 2018
Full Professor of History, Brock University, Canada

Ph.D. in History, York University, Canada

  • 2018. As editor. With Bonny Ibhawoh. Africa and Its Diasporas: Rethinking Struggles for Recognition and Empowerment. Trenton NJ: Africa World Press. 
  • 2017. A History of Slavery and Emancipation in Iran, 1800–1929. Austin: University of Texas Press. Shortlisted for the 2018 Canadian Historical Association Wallace K. Ferguson Prize.
  • 2016. "The Persian Gulf and Britain: The Suppression of the African slave Trade." In Abolitions as a Global Experience, edited by Hideaki Suzuki, 113–129. Singapore: National University of Singapore. 
  • 2014. "Identity Transformations of African Communities in Iran." In The Persian Gulf in Modern Times: People, Ports and History, edited by Lawrence Potter, 351–376. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • 2013. "The Baluchi and Baluchistan." In Journal of the Middle East and Africa 4(2). Special Issue. 
  • 2009. As editor. With Ismael Musah Montana and Paul Lovejoy. Slavery, Islam, and Diaspora. Trenton NJ: Africa World Press. 
  • 2012. The African-Baluchi Trance Dance.Direction, Production, Script, and Narration. 27 minutes. Documentary film supported by SSHRC. 
  • 2008. "The Trade in enslaved Africans in Nineteenth-Century Iran." In The African Diaspora in Asia: Explorations on a Less Known Fact, edited by Kiran Kamal Prasad and Jean-Pierre Angenot, 411–420. Bangalore: Jana Jagrati Prakashana. 
  • 2008. Afro-Iranian Lives. Executive Producer, Co-direction, Production, Script, and Narration. 45 minutes. "Special Mention Award" in the Documentary Category, 10th Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), 2007. 
  • 2008. "Emancipation and its Legacy in Iran: An Overview." In The Cultural Interactions Resulting from the Slave Trade and Slavery in the Arab Islamic World. Paris: UNESCO. 
  • 2005. "The 1848 Abolitionist Farmān: a Step Towards Ending the Slave Trade in Iran:" In Abolition and its Aftermath in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, edited by Gwyn Campbell, 94–102. London: Routledge. 
  • 2002. "African Presence in Iran: Identity and its Reconstruction in the 19th and 20th Centuries." In Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer 89: 229–246. 
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