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Aug 13, 2021

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate, that is the question. It has been a central point of controversy since before the imprinting of the first Gutenberg Bible. And yet, the hyphen has persisted, bringing and bridging new words and concepts.

In conversation with Rich Smith, Associate Editor of The Stranger, academic and anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi shared an introduction to the hidden life of an ordinary thing—the hyphen. With support from her book Hyphen, she took us on a journey through the history of the hyphen from antiquity to the present. Along the way, she uncovered the politics of the hyphen and the role it plays in creating identities, revealing the quiet power of a writing convention concept to speak to the travails of hyphenated individuals all over the world. Herself a hyphenated Iranian-American, she weaved in her own experiences of struggling to find a sense of self amidst feelings of betwixt and between, as well as those of three other individuals. Join us for this compelling conversation about the powerful ways that language and identity intertwine.

Pardis Mahdavi is Dean of Social Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a Professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She is a non-fiction writer with 20 years of experience as an anthropologist, public health researcher, and expert in sexual politics around the globe. She is the author of five books, including the first book on the sexual politics of modern Iran, Passionate Uprisings: Iran’s Sexual Revolution. A former journalist turned academic, she has written for Ms. Magazine, Foreign Affairs, The Huffington Post, Jaddaliyya, and more. Her work has been covered in documentaries, radio shows, podcasts, and media outlets, including CNN, PBS, NPR, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Rich Smith is the Associate Editor of the Stranger, where he covers politics and books. He’s also the author of the poetry collection All Talk.

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