Toronto Initiative for Iranian Studies


In the 1960s and 1970s, U of T emerged as an important center for Iranian studies and Persian literature

Iranian studies have grown substantially in Canada during the last half-century. The Department of Islamic Studies was established at the University of Toronto in 1961, and Iranian studies grew as a sub-discipline of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. In the 1960s and 1970s, U of T emerged as an important center for Iranian studies and Persian literature, due in large part to an ambitious acquisitions program by the U of T library, which has become one of the finest libraries on Middle East and Persian studies in North America. Toronto was further bolstered as a center of Iranian studies with the creation of the West Asian Studies section (now known as the Near Eastern and Asian Civilizations Department) at the Royal Ontario Museum, which houses a rich collection of miniatures, manuscripts, ceramics, textiles and other cultural artifacts from Persia and Central Asia.


Recent decades, however, have witnessed a radical transformation in Iranian studies in Canada. The 1979 Revolution and the ensuing arrival of Iranian academics, journalists, novelists, poets and other intellectuals into Canadian academic and artistic society has generated a greater interest in Iran and the Persian-speaking world among Canadians. This, combined with a growing number of second-generation Irano-Canadians interested in studying aspects of Iranian civilization at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, has contributed significantly to the growth of different aspects of Iranian studies across Canada. This expansion has been further enriched by the participation of a number of talented Iranian literati, artists and musicians in contemporary Canadian society.


The Toronto Initiative for Iranian Studies builds on this history and will lay the groundwork for international conferences, research partnerships and faculty and student exchanges between Canada and the Persian-speaking world. Selected goals of the Toronto Initiative for Iranian Studies include:

  • Expand tricampus course offerings in Iranian studies
  • Initiate workshops, seminars and conferences, such as Iran and Iranian Studies in the 20th Century (Oct. 18-21, 2007) and the Seventh Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies (Aug. 7-11, 2008)
  • Summer research and language training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Develop a centralized depository for Iranian and Persianate materials (textual, visual, audio and electronic) from Iran and Persian-speaking diasporic communities
  • Exchange faculty and students between U of T and Iranian universities and research institutes
  • Fellowship for graduate students in Iranian studies


Recent expansion has brought a large cluster of Iranian Studies scholars to the three campuses of the University of Toronto. This growth has been most impressive at the Mississauga campus of the University of Toronto where since 2004 four new faculty have joined the Department of Historical Studies. Building upon the strength on the St. George Capus, these scholars have brought expertise on the History of Zoroastrian, Shi’i and Isma’ili Islam, Persian language and linguistics, and Iranian modernity and nationalism. Based at UTM, Toronto Initiative for Iranian Studies coordinates tricampus activities promotes close collaboration amongst Iranian Studies scholars at other Canadian institutions of higher education. Working closely with the Canadian media and Canadian-Iranian cultural organizations, TIFIS play a significant role in community education and the promotion of critical academic understanding of contemporary Iran and Iranian civilization.