In the 19th and 20th centuries, Iranian and Afghan intellectuals set out to excavate the Persian literary tradition in search of texts and tools to construct new identities. It was in this process that Iran imagined Ferdowsi as its national poet.
The presence of Afghan refugees in Iran as mercenary troops for Assad’s counterinsurgency complicates present understandings of the foreign fighter, often affiliated with the catch-all figure of the jihadi. (Photo Credit: Mujtaba Jalali)
The Iranian national canon, whatever it means to different people, is primarily studied as a continuation of the “Persian literary canon” while Afghan and Tajik literatures are treated as a divergence, and consequently lose the Persian qualifier. Persian literary production outside of Iran is essentially treated as an exotic object in an uncharted terrain.
Afghan refugees in Turkey are in legal limbo in which their status is unclear. They have the right to reside in the country, but lack the right to work or the kind of state assistance needed to avoid working. To be a refugee in Turkey then requires navigating life between a state-acknowledged realm of illegality, and the uncertainty of how global trends can affect the fate of a refugee population.
The items collected for the Ajam Digital Archive will allow us to document and record history from below—how it was actually lived, experienced, and understood. It is precisely these histories that were ignored in favor of tales that focused exclusively on wars and revolutions, rarely giving us a sense of how life was lived amidst it all.
Ajam mixtapes continue, this time with a sample of music that features Persian poetry as it appears in different musical forms. This mix showcases the myriad of ways Persian poems find their way into music, ranging from Rumi poems sang over classical styles to readings of American poetry in translation. Each poem is accompanied with an English translation.
In 2014, we covered a wide variety of topics ranging from morality and consumer culture in contemporary Iran to Soviet state planning in Yerevan and Afghan pop from the 70s, provoking a great deal of controversy along the way. Check out our ten most-viewed articles from 2014.
The post-Soviet art of Central Asia and the Caucasus comes out of a Soviet-era conversation of artistic styles that looks not just to Moscow but also to Mecca. An understanding of the high and low registers of this Soviet cultural heritage allows the humor and self-confidence of the work to be appreciated — aesthetically as well as financially — by audiences.