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, where public life is tightly controlled.

Doctoral research

Politics of Survival: Trans-Generational Transmission of Political Trauma in Authoritarian States

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 Candidate at York University who is investigating the trans-generational transmission of trauma in wounded communities. She has also completed a law degree in Iran, where she worked for a prominent human rights lawyer. 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. Aytak is also a volunteer for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and Violence (CCVT). During her undergraduate and graduate studies, she participated in prominent conferences and published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Currently, Aytak is a Graduate Research Fellow and Co-chair of student Caucus at Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS), co-organizing CRS's annual conference. She is also Research Coordinator for the SSHRC-funded project titled 'From Margins to Centre through Education: Integrating Victims of Trauma and Torture'. This collaborative research project, led by George Brown College in collaboration with CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) and CCVT (Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture), aims to investigate the barriers and difficulties faced by refugees and victims of political oppressions when entering into post-secondary education and explores the ways institutions of higher education can cater for the unique needs of refugee survivors.