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IMES Visiting Scholar: Kelly Shannon

Visiting scholar Kelly J. Shannon, Ph.D., will be joining IMES later this summer. She is an award-winning foreign relations historian and was a 2023-2024 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2014-2024, she was Associate Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University, where she was Executive Director of the Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights and the Chastain-Johnston Middle Eastern Studies Distinguished Professor in Peace Studies. Shannon is the author of U.S. Foreign Policy and Muslim Women’s Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). She is an in-demand public speaker and writes policy-relevant articles in outlets such as the Washington Post and Iran Source. Shannon is the recipient of multiple honors and awards, including SHAFR’s 2019 Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize and an NEH Summer Stipend. She serves on the Atlantic Council’s Iran Strategy Project Working Group and consults for Women’s Learning Partnership. Her current book, The Ties That Bind: U.S.-Iran Relations, 1905-1953, is under contract with Columbia University Press, a monograph she will continue writing while at GW.

This book examines the foundations of Iran’s relationship with the United States from the period from Iran’s Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911) through the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran’s prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. Most historians of U.S.-Middle relations focus primarily on one of three methodological areas: state-to-state relations and “hard power” concerns, culture and “soft power,” or non-state actors. Dr. Shannon combines all three in her book to analyze the multiple levels on which Americans and Iranians engaged and came to understand one another. Drawing on multi-national, multilingual archival research, she examines the roles not only of official diplomatic contacts, military conflict, political economy and oil, intelligence, international security, and strategic concerns, but also of women and gender, empire, ideology and religion, humanitarianism and human rights, modernization and development, technological advancement, cultural perceptions, race, and non-state actors like missionaries and travelers. She argues that early American-Iranian engagement – through a combination of “hard” and “soft” power and non-state interactions – indelibly influenced Iranian nationalism and modernization, the expansion of U.S. influence in the Middle East, and the United States’ rise to superpower status after World War II. This project offers fresh insight into the factors that contributed to later diplomatic tensions and Iranian domestic challenges. This enhances the salience of Dr. Shannon’s research given present-day U.S.-Iran animosity, Iranian threats to international security, and ongoing popular unrest in Iran.