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Daughters of Rabi’ah: Afghan Women Poets in the Digital Age
November 26, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm EST
Zuzanna Olszewska is an associate professor in the social anthropology of the Middle East at the University of Oxford. She specializes in the ethnography of Iran and Afghanistan, with a focus on Afghan refugees in Iran, the Persian-speaking Afghan diaspora, and the anthropology of literature and cultural production. She received her doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Oxford, and has held post-doctoral fellowships at St. John’s College (junior research fellowship, 2008–12) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE Fellow in Anthropology, 2012–13). Her doctoral research was published as The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran (Indiana University Press, 2015), an ethnographic inquiry into how poetic activity reflects changes in youth subjectivity in an Afghan refugee community, based on work with an Afghan cultural organization in Mashhad, Iran.
In the domain of contemporary Persian literature, the work of Afghan poets still receives little academic attention compared to that of Iranians – a situation that is compounded for women poets. Yet the early twenty-first century has been an extremely productive time for Afghan women poets. Having benefited from educational opportunities and improved access to the public sphere in a variety of countries of exile, as well as post-Taliban Afghanistan itself, they are perhaps more active than ever before in poetic circles in Afghanistan and the diaspora. While not always able to publish their work formally, the rise of blogging and social media has given them numerous other opportunities for the circulation and appreciation of their work, albeit often in an ephemeral fashion. This seminar, based on over 15 years of ethnographic research with Afghan poets in Iran and other countries, explores the themes, stylistic developments and modes of circulation of Afghan women’s poetry in the Persian language in the past two decades, through the lives and works of several poets.