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Difference: WilliamOBeeman (r7 vs. r6)

Comments on William O. Beeman: Iran Is Not What You Think It Is

Grinnell College Scholars' Convocation, held 16 September 2010.

To say that Beeman was casual in his approach to his sources would be high praise indeed. -- SP

Beeman's speech confirmed for me SamR's great wisdom. -- SR

Siddharth Dhananjay:

When I heard that I was about to attend a convocation on Iran by a world expert in Persian culture, I got excited. For such a huge build-up, I have to say William O Beeman's talk was quite underwhelming. Although his credentials glean brightly - Chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota, Author of 20 books, Opera singer - his little short of 60 minutes speech dull in comparison. Mr. Beeman's speech was full of stutters, pauses and confusions. Although his information on Iran was authentic and hard hitting, Mr. Beeman frequently bored us with too much statistical data. So much so, that my two neighbors Jayson and Andy were put to a sound sleep at one point. But not all was gloomy. An occasional infusion of humor and wit kept the convocation alive. In terms of the content, Iran's strong sense of culture and history as well as the power of women stood out to me as the strong points of the convocation. The fact vs. fiction segment of the presentation was also mildly interesting. Probably the most intruiging part of the convocation was the Q&A session at the very end where Mr. Beeman amuses us by citing himself as "[one of the] world's best experts on Persian culture" to answer a criticizing question from the audience. To conclude, althought Mr. Beeman's presentation skills were lackluster, his knowledge of Iranian culture and its uniqueness saved the afternoon.

Till next time,


Rogelio Calderon:

For me, the convocation on Iran was a learning experience, in that somehow I now know more about the misconceptions on Iran. There were a few charts and statistics to complement Beeman’s statements. As of now, I know more about Iran than I ever knew. The Q&A session at the end was odd. Beeman used his expertise on the subject of Iran to justify statements he made during the convocation before elaborating on the specifics of his comments. I also find it interesting that one of his books is pirated in Iran for educational uses, and that Iran does not enforce any U.S. copyright laws in Iran. Beeman's presentation was professional overall, although he appeared to gather his thoughts sometimes (there were a lot of ums and pauses).


Claire Tseng:

I felt like the Beeman convocation delivered less than I expected, though I did like the way he presented his information. The slides with the words were either headers or simple and straightforward. He utilized graphics very well. However, I did not feel like he addressed the issue holistically. All of his points seemed to only skid the surface of the topic. He gave examples but none of them seemed to fully paint the entire picture that we were meant to take away from the presentation. I did not feel like my view on Iran was completely revolutionized, though I did learn some interesting facts. Also, I felt like he did not recognize his audience as well. He has a lot of background on this very broad issue, but I don’t feel like a lot of the audience did, and sometimes it felt like he simplified too much or spoke with the assumption that the people listening were already educated on topics that, in fact, are not within our knowledge. I was also irked by how defensive he got when he was asked questions.


Andrew Clark:

I was not able to attend Beeman's convocation today because it turns out that i have strep. As for the two possible topics i can talk about, I can see how his book "Language, Status, and Power in Iran" is pirated. It's basically a key to Iranian life. The locals may want to know how a person from somewhere else is characterizing them. They also may want to know more about the culture of the country (even if an "outsider" did write it). In my efforts to find evidence that the book is widely pirated in Iran (which I failed at...), I found another interesting article by Beeman. ( In that article, he claims that Iran is not close to becoming a nuclear threat. Iran doesn't have the factories or proper materials in place to create nuclear weapons. It was quite fascinating actually.

-Andrew C.


I found the talk very interesting. I felt slightly like he was overcompensating for the negative view we have of Iran in America; whether that's justified is questionable. I enjoyed the presentation and it did challenge some of my views.

Martin Estrada:

I really like Beeman's convocation, because he tight what we were discussion on tutorial and he also include Sarah, the hiker who got release last week or so. It was funny how no one know how she got release, because the U.S. can not transfer money to Iran with the trade sanction law that the U.S. has. I think we will never know, because then that person or government would get in big trouble and also be in prison for helping her get out. Now I wonder if this will also happen to the other two hiker that are still in prison in Iran. The presentation was kind of an eye open, because I did not know some of this stuff, like how Iran it moving more to an technology and modern time. I always had the impression of going to Iran and seen it like in the movies with the dessert and dirty, but it actually looks like the U.S in some ways. I also got interested in reading Rumi poetry and see how it different from other style of poetry. The population charts were also surprisingly shocking to know that the age of 20-25 is the biggest population and that by 2025 it would dominated the voting process in a way and that they can really make a difference in their country. It was also shocking to know that most of the population of Iran is in the middle class and that 5% is poor. The statistic that women were overpopulating the men was not shocking, because it happening world wide. The false statement were hilarious like the one of Iran having nuclear weapon program is so false or not get proven. Also the one of the President of Iran having a big power is false and that Iran has threatened to "wiped" Israel of the map is so false. Lastly, I got really interested in visiting the largest mall in Iran when it open that will have 2500 shopping stores.


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