Aytak Akbari-Dibavar

Study program:
International Relations
Current affiliation:
York University

Aytak (international relations, York University) is investigating the intergenerational transmission of political trauma in authoritarian states, such as Iran, where public life is tightly controlled.

Doctoral research

Politics of Survival: Trans-Generational Transmission of Political Trauma in Iran and Beyond

Aytak’s doctoral research investigates the trans-generational transmission of political trauma in authoritarian states where public debate and discussion are impossible. Her hypothesis is that survivors of state violence transmit their trauma to their children through private, familial mechanisms that cohere to produce a collective political identity in the subsequent generation that can be traced in that generation’s organizing and activism. In this way, Aytak seeks to understand how individuals' political identity (or their engagement with political) have been shaped through the historical experiences of political trauma. In order to explore the transmission of trauma in the private sphere, Aytak plans to engage with narrative approaches that provide access to the personal and lived experiences of survivors and their children. Her study develops a theory of political trauma that understands the private sphere as a key vector for the transmission of identity in states where the essential artefacts of public life are tightly controlled.

Aytak Akbari-Dibavar is a PhD student at York University who is investigating the trans-generational transmission of trauma in wounded communities. She completed her law degree in Iran, where she worked for a prominent human rights lawyer in the aftermath of the Green Revolution. She was 22 years old when she left Iran. While completing her second undergraduate degree at York, Aytak began to critically engage with her experiences in the context of critical theory. Her passion to contribute to the university’s democratic body led her to volunteer for different projects at York University and hold such positions as student success leader and peer advisor. Under the supervision of the associate dean of students, she initiated a project to engage successful York alumni as career mentors for current students for which York University gave her a leadership award. Currently, Aytak is one of two student representatives to the Graduate Advisory Group and is a co-organizer of the Student Caucus at the York Centre for Refugee Studies. She also volunteers for the Canadian Centre for Victims of TortureDuring her undergraduate and master’s studies, she participated in prominent conferences and published two articles in peer-reviewed journals. Aytak’s master’s thesis entitled “Resiliency and Trauma” received the recognition of “truly outstanding” from the Department of Political Science at McMaster University and one of her undergraduate pieces – entitled “A Letter to Yahya: Writing and Forgiveness” —was assigned mandatory reading in a graduate course at Hebrew University.