A Year in Ajam: Revisiting Our Best Articles from 2017

In 2017, Ajam marked six years up and running! Over the last year, Ajam redesigned its website to offer a new, cleaner aesthetic and an easier reading experience. We’ve experimented with different forms of story-telling, from long-form essays to short blog posts, and we’ve even made new ventures in documentary filmmaking and live events. In the year ahead, we’re gearing up for a new funding model – and a fundraiser! – that will redefine Ajam. Here’s a look back at some of what we’ve accomplished this year, including our most popular articles.

The inauguration of the Trump administration in January 2017 brought with it new political realities and uncertainties for Middle Eastern and North African communities and their respective diasporas. In an effort to combat the racist travel bans targeting citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, AjamMC’s co-editor Beeta Baghoolizadeh collaborated with community organizations and over 100 volunteers to compile a #MuslimBan Resource Guide which was made available in six different languages.

In an attempt to highlight the voices of artists from the targeted countries, Beeta Baghoolizadeh worked with Elsewhere Lit to launch the #Banned literature series. As Ajam’s first foray into publishing original literature, the series featured stories, poems, essays, and other creative endeavors that aimed to complicate the notion of space and place in light of travel ban and rising Islamophobia.

“Dont Say Saddam” by Shawk Alani

For Nowruz celebrations, Ajam worked with Iranian food blogger Roya Soleymani to create Ajam Eats, a four-part series focusing on Iranian culinary traditions associated with the holiday. Ajam Eats also highlighted the gastronomy of Iraq, with its featured interview with Sarah Ahmad, the creator of the Add A Little Lemon food blog. Check out the recipes below if you want to impress your friends and family for the new year’s festivities coming up in March!

“An Ash-e Reshteh recipe just in time for Nowruz” by Roya Soleymani

On the heels of Ajam’s much-loved mixtape series, Co-Editor Kamyar Jarahzadeh organized our first musical event as part of the new Ajam Records initiative. Hosted by Brooklyn’s World Money Gallery in July, the showcase featured performances by Yavaran, Martin Shamoonpour & Mani Nilchiani, and Tan Haw. Ajam Records also provided the electroacoustics for the  “Fighting Islamophobia through Arts, Advocacy, and Analysis” event hosted at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia. The event featured a panel centered on two recent books, Erik Love’s Islamophobia and Racism in America (NYU Press, 2017) and Neda Maghbouleh’s The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race (Stanford University Press, 2017).

In November, Ajam Media Collective’s Mehelle project spearheaded by Co-Editor Rustin Zarkar premiered its first documentary on the state-led urban beautification initiative affecting the neighborhood of Sovetski located in the historic heart of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Facade (2017) offers a snapshot of the neighborhood on the eve of major demolitions in 2015. Mehelle will release an epilogue to the film in late spring of 2018, which will follow the Sovetski residents who have been forced to move out and adapt to a new life away from their homes.

A teaser trailer for the Mehelle project’s next documentary, coming spring of 2018.

Looking back on 2017, we at AjamMC are more committed than ever to continue bringing you new and interesting perspectives from Iran, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Anatolia. In March 2018, Ajam will launch its first fundraiser campaign, in an attempt to introduce a more ethical publishing practice in which our contributors are financially compensated for their labor. Keep an eye out for our IndieGoGo campaign, where you’ll be able to receive cool perks such as Ajam gear, as well as gifts from our friends Ara the Rat and Slavs & Tatars.

And without further ado, here are our top articles and photo essays from 2017!

1. Yacoub Shaheen, the Assyrian singer from Palestine taking Arab Idol by Storm (by Alex Shams)

2. The Weaponization of Nostalgia: How Afghan Miniskirts Became the Latest Salvo in the War on Terror (by Alex Shams)

“Kabul, Before the Taliban.”

3. How Armenian-Americans Became “White” : A Brief History (by Aram Ghoogasian)

Fresno Armenians of the Protestant Congregational Church, Courtesy of the Armenian Studies Program, Fresno State.

4. Who was the “real” Aladdin? From Chinese to Arab in 300 Years (by Arafat A. Razzaque)

Left: Playbill from the 1885-86 season of Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (Source: Harry Ransom Center, UT Austin). Right: Programme for a 1909 production of Aladdin at Drury Lane (Source: Victoria and Albert Museum). Left: Costume design by Attilio Comelli for “Mandarins” in the 1909 Aladdin at Drury Lane (Source: Harry Ransom Center, UT Austin).

5. Demons Licking Your Toes: An Early 20th Century Manuscript from Isfahan (by Ali Karjoo-Ravary)

6. The First “Iranian-Armenian” in America (by Kamyar Jarahzadeh)

Captain Smith’s map of Virginia from The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, 1624.

7. Hate Knows No Mistaken Identities: He Came to Kill an Iranian and Settled for an Indian (by Alex Shams)

Sunayana Dumala, wife of slain engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, is consoled by family members before last rites at his funeral in Hyderabad. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

8. Seta Hagopian, the Fairuz of Iraq (by Alex Shams)

9. Exploring Yerevan’s Oldest Neighborhood: History and Ethics of Heritage Preservation in Kond (by Karine Vann)

Photo of Kond.

10. The Studio of Behnaz Karjoo, an Iranian-American Master of the Islamic Art of Illumination (by Beeta Baghoolizadeh)

11. Scholarship in the Service of Empire: The Legacy of Ann K.S. Lambton in 20th Century Iran (by Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi)

12. Come Here, Let’s Drink!: Kef Music from Ottoman Istanbul’s Multicultural Nightclubs (by Kamyar Jarahzadeh)

13. Shi’i Rituals in Pahlavi Iran: Audio Recordings from the Ajam Archive (by Ali Karjoo-Ravary)

14. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs in Istanbul: The Politics of  in the New Turkey (by Ilker Hepkaner)

15. The Iraqi Soldiers who Sacrificed Everything to Defend Palestine in 1948 (by Alex Shams)

16. Poetry, or the Power of Existence: Shahin Parhami’s “Shahrzaad’s Tale” (by Setrag Manoukian)

17. Timur Hammond on the Landscapes of Islam in 20th-Century Istanbul (by Beeta Baghoolizadeh and Rustin Zarkar)

A Drinking Fountain at Eyup Sultan Mosque (Photo Credit: Timur Hammond).

18. Sedentary Fragmentation: Toward a Genealogy of Chicago’s Iranian Art Scene (by Alex Shams)

19. We Apologize for the Temporary Inconvenience: Capturing Baku’s Not-so-Ephemeral Public Banners (by Rustin Zarkar)

Layering of two banners caused by a tear in an image of the Azerbaijan Drama Theater to reveal an image of an oil rig.

20. Blake Atwood on the Secret Life of Video Cassettes in Iran (by Beeta Baghoolizadeh)

“We’re excited to continue Ajamming with you all in 2018. Thanks for all the support, and be sure to keep up with us in the new year!”



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