top of page


Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer, and Poetry in Iran


2021 AAR Book Awards

Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Constructive-Reflective Studies

From the jury:

Niloofar Haeri’s deeply researched and elegantly written book brings readers into the most intimate and exigent spaces of a religious world. Haeri examines the everyday prayer practices of Iranian women as the basis for reflecting on the relationship between prayer and poetry and on how ideas about religiosity debated in classical Persian poetry inform the world of prayer. Haeri’s ethnographic study of Muslim women at prayer, a practice that is at once deeply personal and utterly social, underscores the diversity of Muslim religious practices and challenges conceptions of what constitutes “authentic” religion, complicating the distinction between ritual and non-ritual forms of worship. This beautiful book is a signal contribution to the study of women and Islam, with implications for the study of religion itself.


The question that has motivated much of my work so far has been: What difference does language make? What difference does it make in our relationships, religious acts, beliefs, our memories, and more broadly all that in one way or another involves language? I want to understand how the circle that is language changing society (community, politics, religion, rituals) changing language actually works.


The video tells the story of a group of students at the Fine Arts College of the University of Tehran. Along with a few professors and other friends, they produced posters to support the massive anti-Shah protests that swept the country in 1978-1978. This group of artists came to be known as Group 57. Most of protest posters can be seen for the first time in this video as they are not available on websites or in formats other than digital.

An International Visual Vocabulary of Protest Art

This is a team project that I have begun with my colleagues Prof. Narges Bajoghli of SAIS and Prof. Anne Eakin-Moss at the Department of Comparative Thought and Religion at Johns Hopkins (now at the University of Chicago). We received a Discovery Grant from the Provost’s office in 2019 for the project “Invitation to the Masses: The Russian and Iranian Revolutions and their Arts of Persuasion.” Although the Russian revolution is viewed as the quintessential “modern” revolution and the Iranian revolution as anything but, the visual landscape of the Iranian revolution before the war with Iraq(1980-1988) shows many traces from Russia, via the Atelier Populaire of Paris 1968, Cuban revolutionary art, and Mexican murals.

This project has so far resulted in the video “Long Live Freedom!”; and several presentations at the Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona (CCCB) in May 2023.


bottom of page