On Wednesday September 5th, students, faculty and alumni met at Alumni Hall to celebrate the long career of Professor Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, who retired this past summer after 33 years at UConn. After welcoming remarks from Dean Davita Glasberg, Zirakzadeh charmed the crowd with heartfelt comments about his time in Storrs and the many friends he made along the way. It was a bittersweet farewell to a UConn fixture who has touched so many lives over the years.
Zirakzadeh received his baccalaureate from the University of Michigan, his master’s degree from Stanford University, and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to his time spent in the Political Science Department, he served for five years as Director of the University of Connecticut’s Honors Programs and for five years as Associate Dean for the Social Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Additionally, he thrice chaired the University of Connecticut’s Senate Executive Committee.
In the late 1990s, Zirakzadeh participated in the Perestroika movement within political science, which sought to encourage a substantively rich, methodologically plural discipline. In addition, Zirakzadeh has served on the Graduate Education and Professional Development Committee of the American Political Science Association, and on the Executive Councils of the Northeastern Political Science Association and the New England Political Science Association. In 2005, he was honored with the title “University of Connecticut Teaching Fellow” from the University of Connecticut’s Institute for Teaching and Learning. He also received an Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Political Science Association and Pi Sigma Alpha honorary society. More recently in 2015, Zirakzadeh received the inaugural University of Connecticut Provost’s Service Award for contributions “to the teaching, research, engagement, and service missions of the University of Connecticut.”
Two topics have dominated Zirakzadeh’s research agenda: experiments with grassroots democracy (also known as “participatory democracy” and “direct democracy”) and political thought in art. For several decades, he has examined the origins, activities, and legacies of social movements in Western and Central Europe and Latin and North America. More recently, he has studied representations of U.S. politics in literature, music, and film. In addition, he is interested in theories about workplace democracy, and in the possibilities for and challenges to an interpretive political science.
Zirakzadeh has authored three books: A Rebellious People: Basques Protests and Politics (1991), Direct Democracy and International Politics: Deciding International Issues through Referendums (co-authored with John Rourke and Richard Hiskes, 1992), and Social Movements in Politics: A Comparative Study (1997; updated and expanded second edition in 2006). He also has edited a four-volume handbook on social and political movements (2011), and has co-edited an anthology with Simon Stow on the political experiences and visions of John Steinbeck (2013), and an anthology with Jane Gordon on the political experiences and visions of Richard Wright (forthcoming).