COMM 188A – Coming of Age in World Cultures: A Cinematic Approach


Across contemporary world cultures, the common pattern of coming of age stories explores first love, sexual awakening, conflict with family, and changing status in wider society. It’s a pattern that we all experience as we transition from adolescence into adulthood and during that journey discover our true selves.

In this course, we use international film as our medium for examining ‘coming of age’ stories through a global and comparative lens. We focus on how cultures throughout the world and throughout history created rituals, ‘rites of passage’, to ease the transition period for the individual as well as the family and society in which they belong. Each week, we will watch and discuss a different ‘coming of age’ film drawn from Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and East Asia.

The course covers the following themes:

  • The Meaning and Purpose of Culture: Definitions and Interpretations
  • Human Life as a Process in Time: Social and Biological Transitions
Nushin Arbabzadah


Nushin Arbabzadah

I am a media and cultural analyst with special interests in global and new media, intercultural representation and conflict.

I have graduate degrees from Hamburg University in Germany and Cambridge University in England, where I was one of the first William H. Gates Scholars. Before completing high school in Germany, I grew up during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which gave me a lifelong concern for understanding conflict.

Through being educated in three countries and four languages, I developed my interests in intercultural communication. After graduating from Cambridge, I worked for the British Council, overseeing international media projects involving journalists, TV presenters and writers from across the Middle East and Asia. I later joined the BBC, where I worked for several years analyzing the Afghan, Iranian and European media. I am a trained linguist and have translated professionally from Persian, German and Spanish and also understand Pashto, French and some other languages.

My book, Afghan Rumor Bazaar: Secret Sub-cultures, Hidden Worlds and the Everyday Life of the Absurd is a study of new media and youth cultures of contemporary Afghanistan. Professor Brian Glyn Williams (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth) described it as “invaluable and groundbreaking” in a review in Central Asian Survey. I have also translated the autobiography of the Iranian journalist Houshang Asadi and edited several books on the representation of minorities; literature and transnationalism; and Middle Eastern youth journalism. I am a regular writer for The Guardian, Huffington Post and have recently begun writing for Al-Jazeera America. I am currently writing a book on women’s education between Asia and the West.