You are here

Zuzanna Olszewska, “What can Afghan refugees teach us about the Islamic Republic of Iran?”

Recent ethnographies of post-revolutionary Iran have tended to focus on youthful expressions of discontent and rebellion against the Islamic state among middle-class urban dwellers, while taking little account of other socio-economic groups and subject positions in this vast country. But focusing on the treatment of the large population of Afghan refugees that exists on the margins of Iranian society offers intriguing possibilities for recognising that the Islamic Republic’s current exercise of statecraft owes more to an opportunistic realpolitik than to Islamic solidarity. It also illustrates how the state has governed not only through coercion, but also through hegemonic persuasion and welfare provision that still hold legitimacy for many. Afghan refugees have experienced both opportunity and exclusion in Iran, and their conflicted subjectivities – revealed, for example, in their poetry – reflect both their fervent aspirations for upward mobility, and their bitter disappointments as aliens with a precarious legal status in the country.

Zuzanna Olszewska is Departmental Lecturer in Social Anthropology with special reference to the Middle East at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral work, examining poetic practice in relation to changes in subjectivity among Afghan refugees in Iran, will be published in a forthcoming book,The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran. Her doctorate won the Foundation for Iranian Studies’ annual dissertation award in 2010, and formed the basis for the Evans-Pritchard Lectures 2013 at All Souls College, Oxford. She has previously taught anthropology at Oxford and LSE, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles on Iran and Afghanistan, as well as translations of Persian-language Afghan poetry.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014 (All day)


Time and Location TBA


CREEES and Inner Asia at Stanford