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Rustin Zarkar

This category contains 14 posts

A Mural Erased: Urban Art, Local Politics, and the Contestation of Public Space in Mashhad

Municipal politics around beautification programs reveal the complexity of governance in Iran and shatter illusions about the monolithic nature of the Iranian state. By exploring how local actors express often-contradictory opinions about the nature and future of Iranian cities, a fuller picture of modern life and politics in Iran emerges — one that highlights the diffuse nature of power and local decision-making in the Islamic Republic. Continue reading »

Constructing Sacred Space: An Architectural History of Mashhad’s Imam Reza Shrine

Like the city itself, the Imam Reza shrine complex grew gradually over time as political elites tried to establish their legitimacy. Rulers strove not only to appease the local religious establishment by funding elaborate building projects around the site, but also hoped to create physical testaments to their political authority. Due to the inherent political nature of these structures, the site was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt as it changed hands from dynasty to dynasty. Continue reading »

Word As Image: Contextualizing “Calligraffiti: 1984-2013″ with French-Tunisian Street Artist eL Seed

This synthesis of linguistic signs and visual representation is explored by New York’s Leila Heller Gallery in their new exhibition entitled “Calligraffitti: 1984-2013.” The show features a substantial collection of text-based visual art created by artists such as eL Seed, Parviz Tanavoli, Hassan Massoudy, Hossein Zenderoudi, Shirin Neshat, and many more. The show’s titular portmanteau points to another unification: that between graffiti and calligraphy. Continue reading »

The Poster Arts of May Day: International Worker’s Day in Revolutionary Iran

During the Iranian Revolution, International Worker’s Day became an ideological battleground as competing political organizations— secular and religious— organized their constituents and articulated their interpretation of worker’s solidarity. Visual ephemera related to May Day, such as posters, are testaments to the pluralistic nature of the early years of the Revolution. By looking at various posters disseminated by organizations of the time, one can see how various political factions used similar visual motifs and iconography. Continue reading »

Ferdowsi’s Legacy: Examining Persian Nationalist Myths of the Shahnameh

A tribute to Ajam Media Collective’s name and inspiration, this post was written by Ajam’s editors, Alex Shams, Rustin Zarkar, and Beeta Baghoolizadeh. Photographs by Preethi Nallu originally published in Al Akhbar English, republished with author permission. Epic literature occupies a key role in formulating and maintaining cohesive national and cultural identities– elucidating the spirit … Continue reading »

Taking Back the Streets: Iranian Graffiti Artists Negotiating Public Space

Co-written by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Shahrzad Ghadjar and Ajam Co-Editor Rustin Zarkar. Follow Shahrzad on Twitter @spooksvilla. On the eve of Iran’s 1979 Revolution, the Iranian public sphere was transformed into places where information could be exchanged verbally, textually, and visually. The walls came alive with opinions and the chants of the masses. After revolutionary … Continue reading »

Afghans in Iran: Contradictory State Policies and a Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement

Part III of a series on Afghan refugees in Iran. Earlier this year, I begun a series highlighting the experiences of Afghan refugees in Iran. By focusing on cultural production, particularly film and literature, I wished to elucidate the conditions of 2-3 million individuals making a living away from their war-torn homeland as well as … Continue reading »

Persian Gulf Cosmopolitans & Emirati Fences: The Life and Times of the Iranian Souk

As the standoff between Iran and the United States enters into a new, more aggressive phase of crippling sanctions punctuated by threats of war, the Arab oil sheikhdoms to Iran’s south have increasingly collaborated with US efforts to isolate Tehran. Increasingly, the Persian Gulf has been represented as a geopolitical powder keg with distinct cultural … Continue reading »

Far From Home: Portrayals of the Afghan Refugee in Iranian Cinema

Part II of a series on Afghan Refugees in Iran. Earlier this month, I completed a post discussing how works of literature from prominent Afghan writers voiced the conditions of millions of undocumented Afghan refugees residing in Iran. These members of the Afghan diaspora have been able to draw upon their own personal accounts as … Continue reading »

Afghan Diasporic Literature: A Refugee Narrative from the Heart of Urban Tehran

Part I of a series on Afghan refugees in Iran. Iran is a culturally heterogeneous society that has been shaped by waves of migration over many centuries. While much of the domestic political and academic rhetoric chooses to highlight Iran’s resistance to foreign influence, the invaluable contributions of migrant communities have often been ignored or … Continue reading »