SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Laura Beaney

  • Research


Laura Beaney
Laura Beaney
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Thesis title:
Beyond Exile: Gender, Identity and Artistic Practices in Second-Generation Women Belonging to the Iranian Diaspora in the US.
Year of Study:
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For more than a decade cultural writer, art gallery director, and author Laura Cherrie Beaney has divided her time between artists' studios, documenting the social experiences and creative practices that encapsulate the contemporary moment in the Middle East and beyond. Conflating her fascinations with social anthropology and the arts via her varied pursuits, Laura has written extensively on the art of the MENSA region contributing to publications including Canvas Magazine, Tatler, and Harper’s Bazaar Art. In 2019 she published her first book, Crossing the Catwalk: Transvestism in Contemporary Fashion and Culture with Academica Press.

A passionate contributor to not-for-profit and humanitarian organisations including the MOP Foundation, Laura is currently working for curatorial platform, Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD), as a research assistant. The non-profit platform excavates and researches histories of nations condemned by social displacement, cultural annihilation or deliberate disappearance. AOTFD engages with accounts of culture which have been lost through material destruction, acts of censorship, political, economic or human contingencies.

PhD Research

This research is concerned with second-generation Iranian women artists in the US and asks how they engage with issues around gender and social identities through their creative work. Conducting research on this particular generation of women at the present time is both sensitive and timely. While much attention has been paid to migration and displacement, there is very little scholarship that addresses how Iranian women of second-generation diaspora in the US make sense of their complex identities in new and rapidly developing circumstances which include heightened Iran-US tensions and sanctions as well as shifting inter-diaspora dynamics and changing circumstances in the home and host countries. Beginning with the understanding that ‘identities’ are both contextual and evolving this research aims to answer the following questions: 

How do women in the second-generation Iranian diaspora in the US use art and for which purposes? It also raises a series of sub-questions:

How does the subjectivity of these artists provide deeper insight into the complexities and ambiguities of diasporic identity?
Which socio-political conditions or events provide a context for the production of their art?
How does their art challenge/reinforce ethnocentric/gender stereotypes?

The research will thus focus upon the context, gestation, execution and exhibition of the work of these second-generation artists. It will interrogate the work in terms of the reasons why Iranian women artists produce their art, their intentions and how it represents and re-represents the complexities and diversities of the identities of women artists in the Iranian diaspora who have, in some cases, formed new hybrid identities within a western, largely secular, context. 

Research to date has focused upon artists in Iran as well as those in the first-generation diaspora; there is, however, a gap in studies of women artists in the second-generation Iranian diaspora. My decision to focus specifically on Iranian diasporic art produced by second-generation women in the US is an attempt to fill the gap in the literature and also stems from my experiences with women artists displaced from the Middle East.


  • Gender studies
  • Diaspora studies
  • Iranian studies
  • Migration