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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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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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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Becoming a Post-Soviet City: Social Housing and Urban Planning in Yerevan

Since gaining independence, Yerevan has been subjected to a complex process of postcolonial nation-building while simultaneously adopting globalized urbanization trends. Similar to many other gentrifying cities, demolition and displacement are becoming more and more a common practice. New multinational construction projects are presented and justified as acts of nation-building while the low income majority is expected by the emerging elite to make sacrifices for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
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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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