Contemporary Persian Verbal Culture: A Symposium

14-15 April 2012, St. John’s College, Oxford

This symposium brought together scholars of literature, anthropology, sociolinguistics, folklore and media studies to consider verbal culture – defined as cultural expression through words, both written and spoken – in the Persian language today. It aimed to fill a gap in the contemporary academic literature on this topic by considering how the authors of texts in the Persian language have been at the forefront of social and political change in their countries, and have developed myriad new literary and spoken genres adapted to developments in communication technology. It showed that the literary scenes of the three major Persian-speaking countries in the world today – Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan – as well as their diasporas, are full of lively debate and activity, while popular verbal culture evolves dynamically through old and new forms, genres and media including blogs and other online communications, popular music lyrics, broadcasting, slang, jokes, proverbs, prose, poetry, and shifting speech registers. The speakers considered the evolving social, cultural, political and technological contexts of language use and verbal genre development.

The speakers were pioneers of Persian sociolinguistics and folklore, distinguished scholars of Persian literature, and young scholars with fresh perspectives on emerging phenomena and new media: William Beeman, Margaret Mills, Dominic Brookshaw, Setrag Manoukian, Gabrielle van den Berg, Niki Akhavan, Orkideh Behrouzan, Sima Shakhsari, Zuzanna Olszewska, Samad Alavi, Benjamin Gatling, Fatemeh Shams and Nahid Siamdoust.

Organisers and Sponsors

This conference is convened by Dr. Zuzanna Olszewska, Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies at St. John’s College, Oxford, and sponsored by the Iran Heritage Foundation, the St. John’s College Research Centre, and the University of Oxford’s John Fell OUP Research Fund. Administrative support was provided by the staff of St. John’s College and the Faculty of Oriental Studies.