In her writing, which is at once poetically beautiful, analytically nuanced, and politically uncompromising, she has explored issues including the memorialisation of martyrdom; happiness and pleasure; counterinsurgency; Iranian cookbooks; solidarity; policing and prisons; humanitarianism; racial capitalism; and ports, shipping, logistics and trade. She is incredibly intellectually curious, and nothing is off-limits to her political imagination, as her explorations of art, beauty, happiness and poetry aptly demonstrate.
While the BRISMES Service Award is given in recognition of Laleh’s innumerable contributions to the field through her corpus of published work, more fundamentally it is awarded for her wider contributions to Middle Eastern Studies as a teacher, colleague and mentor. In preparing to give this award, we reached out to some of Laleh’s former and current colleagues, friends, and especially her students. They showered her with praise and affection in reflections littered with superlatives, which demonstrates the extraordinary care, generosity and support for which she is widely and justifiably known. She is solidaristic and non-hierarchical; one of the rare professors on the picket line (come rain, shine or snow); and brings her characteristic clarity, energy, and wit to those collective struggles, all the while offering exceptional support and mentorship to her colleagues, and especially to early career scholars.
She does this not just by guiding our work, writing letters on our behalf, or introducing us to others in our field - but also by opening her home, bringing us together as a community, so we could feel part of a collective. She gave us tools and spaces and friendships and support-systems, so we could feel grounded, so we could do rigorous scholarship, that is also generous, political, full of care. We learn this in and with communities - and Laleh has played a huge role in ensuring this has been part of our academic lives.
In the words of one of her former students, she has moulded a whole generation of scholars of the Middle East. The influence she has had on Middle Eastern Studies is therefore not limited to her astonishing academic work, but is felt throughout our conferences and classrooms, on picket lines and in protests, as those who have seen Laleh model the very best of what academia could be, attempt to channel the critique, the creativity, the generosity, the kindness, and the love that she has shown them and shown us.
Laleh, on behalf of this community that you have shaped so profoundly, and served with such distinction, we are honoured to be the ones who get to present you with the BRISMES Award for Services to Middle Eastern Studies.
Sharri Plonski & Lewis Turner, BRISMES Council Members
On behalf of BRISMES Council
3 July 2023