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Session R4748 (Conducting Archival Research in MENA: Current Challenges, Creative Solutions), 2017
I arrived back to the US from Iran the day before the inauguration of the Trump administration. This was my second trip to Iran in four months. In August, I finally received a visa, after years of trying to figure out how to go to the country I had been studying for so long, as an American with only an American passport. Merely days after the inauguration, the executive orders started coming, one of which was the ban on immigrants from certain countries – Iran included on this list. Understandably, the Iranian government responded in kind, and is no longer approving visas for Americans. This has already impacted travel and research plans of several colleagues.

Due to the general challenge, or rather near impossibility, of being an American doing research in Iran, I had already been developing alternative ways to think of archives, and projects using archival collections located outside of Iran. To this well-timed roundtable, I will contribute ideas on how to conduct historical research, traditionally based around “going to the archive,” in a country that is now impossible to access on an American passport. I will discuss what sorts of alternative archives can be built, and what archives exist that have significant collections of material on Iran that I have found useful in my own research up to this point. For example, several collections from the Iranian student movement in the US are held in California at the Hoover Archives. There is also an excellent collection of sources on Iran in Amsterdam at the International Institute of Social History.

Aside from “going to the archive,” how else can one build a body of historical source material to which to turn? There are several collections of material that scholars have begun to digitize and put online for the general public – bringing to the fore the equally important question of who can and should have access to the archives. Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran is the best example, but there are other, smaller collections being built, as well.