Ritual Matter(s): Nowruz Ceremonies of the Zoroastrian New Year in Tehran

Perhaps the most widely known among these is the ceremonial spread called the Khan-e Nowruz or the Haft Chin. It features a variety of objects that symbolize key figures and values of Zoroastrian cosmology. The arrangement of this spread — or most of its elements — has historically emerged as a cultural practice shared among numerous peoples across West Asia, the Caucasus, and India.
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Syriac Churches and Sephardic Synagogues: The Urban Legacy of Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanism in Kerala

In the southern Indian port city of Kochi, millennia of merchant cosmopolitanism have contributed to the growth of a diverse and syncretic culture that combines faiths, practices, and forms from across the Indian Ocean rim. The history of Syriac Christianity and Sephardic Judaism in the region offer a unique perspective on Kerala’s historic relationship with the Middle East.
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Karbala in Istanbul: Scenes from the Ashura Commemorations of Zeynebiye

Ashura is a day of mourning marked by Muslims around the world to commemorate the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, Hossein, and his compatriots. As a day of commemoration, it has been marked by people of all faiths across large swathes of South, Central, and Western Asia for centuries. This photo essay documents presents a look at the ritual in Istanbul’s Zeynebiye neighborhood in 2013, the center of the city’s Shia population.
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Making Graffiti an Iranian Art: The Works of Tehran-based Street Artist Ghalamdar

The work of Tehran-based street artist Ghalamdar exemplifies a new direction in Iranian street art. While the majority of artists operating in Iran are heavily influenced by motifs and techniques popularized outside of Iran, Ghalamdar is inspired by endemic calligraphic styles and miniature paintings that have been the primary targets for 20th century modernist art. In several conversations with AjamMC, the artist discussed how Iranian visual and literary culture influenced his work and how dominant trends in Iranian street art have solidified.
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The King Hasn’t Left The Building: An Oral History of an Afghan Musical Icon, Ahmad Zahir

Ahmad Zahir, the major Afghan pop singer of the 1970s, died mysteriously in 1979, a year of upheaval and turmoil in Afghanistan’s political history. Since then, many Afghans, in diaspora and in Afghanistan, maintain a special relationship with Ahmad Zahir and his music. This article explores the memory of one family in using Ahmad Zahir as a way to connect to their homeland.
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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.
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