- 1920 - 2017 (Creation)
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5.46m of textual records
0.07m of graphic material
2 audio reels (1/4 inch)
Name of creator
Professor Amir Hassanpour (1943-2017) was a prominent Kurdish-Iranian Marxist Linguist and Professor Emeritus of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto (UofT), where he taught from 1999 to 2009. His major research areas were Kurdish socio-linguistics, Kurdish history and nationalism, as well as peasant and social movements in the Middle East and Kurdistan. He was an influential intellectual and revolutionary thinker who advocated for Kurdish Studies and the rights of national minorities for self-determination. His wide-ranging research has left significant impacts in these areas.
Born in Mahabad, Prof. Hassanpour attended the University of Tehran for his B.A. in English Language and Literature (1960-1964). He then completed a compulsory placement in Sepah Tarvij wa Abadani (Advancement and Development Force, a branch of the Land Reform Campaign) as a replacement for the required military service in Iran. This position exposed him to land reform history and peasant movements in Kurdistan.
Following his service, Prof. Hassanpour trained as a teacher at the Tehran Teachers’ Training College (1965). After working in Mahabad for several years, he then returned to the University of Tehran to complete his M.A. in Linguistics in 1968. Prof. Hassanpour moved to the United States to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his PhD in 1972. Prior to working at the UofT, Prof. Hassanpour held research and teaching positions at the University of Windsor (1987-1993), Uppsala Universitet (1993-1994) and at Concordia University (1994-1996).
Prof. Hassanpour pioneered the application of socio-linguistic theories and methods to the study of Kurdish language and its relationship to nation-building. His thesis, “The Language Factor in National Development: The Standardization of the Kurdish Language, 1918 - 1985” is credited as a Marxist analytical landmark in the field of Kurdish Studies, where he made extensive use of socio-linguistic theoretical literature and referenced previously overlooked sources such as: unpublished government documents, national census data, interviews and personal correspondence with key Kurdish intellectuals, Kurdish language texts including poetry, novels, newspapers, radio programs and music.
Prof. Hassanpour continued his study in communication and media studies, Kurdish nationalism, language, and culture, particularly through the analysis of satellite television and its relation to the development of Kurdish nationalism in 1990s. As the subjects of his research expanded, he developed a reputation for being at the forefront of research in Kurdish literature, culture, and music, as well as looking at Kurdish peasant movements, and Kurdish and Iranian diasporas. Connected to both his academic interests and revolutionary ideas, Prof. Hassanpour actively collected and preserved material related to international revolutionary movements, with particular emphasis on Kurdistan, Iran, Palestine and China under Mao’s leadership. As a revolutionary scholar, his intellectual journey came to embody his rejection of nationalism as a liberation path. He was an internationalist and critical of theories and politics advocating ‘identity politics’ and ‘cultural relativism’ that overlook class and separate patriarchy and racism from capitalist and imperialist relations of power.
As a teacher, Prof. Hassanpour was highly popular among students. He was vastly regarded for his resourcefulness and commitment to critical and transformative pedagogy. While at the UofT, he developed and taught undergraduate courses in Middle Eastern studies with focuses on mass media, nationalism, social movements and civil society. His course, “Theory and Method in Middle Eastern Studies”, became a required component of the Department’s graduate curriculum as the course introduced students to theories of historiography and the history of the discipline and its Orientalist roots in Europe and North America.
While at UofT, Prof. Hassanpour served on multiple committees including The Undergraduate Affairs Committee and the Teaching Evaluation Committee. Outside of the University, he served on advisory boards for Kurdish Studies programs or language course offerings in the United States, the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as consulting for a range of governmental bodies and organizations in Canada and abroad. In addition to his regular publishing activity, Prof. Hassanpour held editorial positions for journals, Derwaze: Kurdish Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Gzing.
Prof. Hassanpour’s lifetime intellectual and political partner is Prof. Shahrzad Mojab. She is a Professor at the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education (OISE/UT) and Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto. She is currently the Director of Equity Studies, University of Toronto. Their son, Salah Hassanpour, is a doctoral student at the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, York University, Toronto.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
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Scope and content
Fonds consists of records documenting the professional and personal life of Prof. Hassanpour, Kurdish-Iranian Marxist scholar and Professor at UofT’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Material reflects key areas of Prof. Hassanpour’s research, most significantly Kurdish history and culture; the history of political movements, grassroots organization, and class struggle in Iran, Iraq and Turkey; and communication theory and sociolinguistics. Material includes correspondence with colleagues and scholars internationally, documentation of research with particular focus on Prof. Hassanpour’s dissertation and his Peasant Movement Project, records relating to conference presentations, interviews, and teaching, as well as his publishing activity.
Prof. Hassanpour was deeply invested in the preservation of Kurdish oral, visual, and textual documentary heritage as a response to the historical state suppression of cultural-political struggle of Kurdish people. Reflected in records throughout the fonds is Prof. Hassanpour’s work in pursuing the establishment of Kurdish Studies as a discipline, his work editing journals related to Kurdistan, and his effort in exposing and circulating books on Kurdish Studies to libraries and research institutions internationally. Prof. Hassanpour also actively collected and preserved Kurdish texts, dailies, and visual materials. This material is included in Series 9 (Reference material) and through bibliographic and audio material held in other repositories at the University of Toronto Libraries (please see the related material note below).
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Conditions governing access
All files are open, with the exception of the files listed below. Please see series descriptions for additional information.
- Series 1: B2019-0004/003(04) and (09)
- Series 2: B2019-0004/006(36) and (38)
- Series 7: All files and recordings in this sub-series are restricted until 2025
- Series 8: B2019-0004/029(18) and B2019-0004/030(01)
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Language and script notes
Given the diversity of languages represented within the material and transliteration schemes, researchers are advised to anticipate multiple styles of transliteration and search accordingly. In general, the Archivist has maintained Prof. Hassanpour’s transliteration, or used the Library of Congress’ transliteration scheme for Kurdish and Persian accordingly.
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Uploaded finding aid
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Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
In addition to his archival material, Prof. Hassanpour’s collection of books and publications were donated to the University of Toronto Libraries and can be searched as a gift of Amir Hassanpour through the Library’s catalogue. Similarly, a collection of microfilm and music is held at Media Commons, University of Toronto Libraries.
Finding aids for the Amir Hassanpour fonds are available in four languages: Kurmanji, Sorani, Persian and English. Please consult PDF finding aids attached to this description. UTARMS would like to thank the following individuals for their work in translating these description:
Dr. Ergin Opengin, Lecturer at English Language Department, University of Kurdistan-Hewlêr, Iraqi Kurdistan (Kurmanji)
Professor Jaffer Sheyholislami, Linguistics and Language Studies, Carleton University (Sorani)
Hassan Seif Ghazi,TV Journalist and Kurdish Historian (Sorani)
Kübra Sağır, History and Turkish Language and Literature, Bogazici University, Istanbul/Turkey (Kurmanji)
Mahdi Ganjavi, PhD Candidate, LHAE-OISE/UT (Persian)
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Hassanpour, Amir (Subject)