Congratulations to Professor Zuzanna Olszewska, Tutorial Fellow in Archaeology and Anthropology at St John’s, who has won an Award of Excellence from the Middle East Studies Association.

The Pearl of Dari by Prof OlszewskaHer recent book The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood Among Young Afghans in Iran (Indiana University Press), has won the Houshang Pourshariati Book Award in Iranian Studies.

The Middle East Studies Association, based in the United States, is a non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programmes, publications and services that enhance education, further intellectual exchange, recognise professional distinction and defend academic freedom.

Professor Olszewska specialises 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. The Pearl of Dari examines Afghan refugee life in Iran through the circle of poets and intellectuals who make up the ‘Pearl of Dari’ cultural organisation. Dari is the name by which the Persian language is known in Afghanistan. Afghan immigrants in Iran are marginalised and restricted to menial jobs. Ambitious and creative refugee youth have taken to writing poetry, to tell their story as a group and to improve their prospects for a better life. At the same time, they are altering the ancient tradition of Persian love poetry by promoting greater individualism in realms such as gender and marriage. The book offers compelling insights into the social life of poetry in an urban, Middle Eastern setting largely unknown in the West.

Professor Zuzanna OlszewskaMore information about Professor Olszewska's work can be found on her Faculty webpage.

More details of the Middle East Studies Association and the Awards can be found on their website.