Dr Zuzanna Olszewska

Zuzanna Olszewska

Associate Professor in the Middle East

Iran, Afghanistan, refugees, diaspora, cultural production, poetry, subjectivity and modernity, aspiration.

Zuzanna 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. She received her doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2010, and has held post-doctoral fellowships at St. John's College (JRF, 2008-12) and LSE (LSE Fellow in Anthropology, 2012-13). Her doctoral research, to be published as a forthcoming book titled The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran, was an ethnographic inquiry into how poetic activity reflects changes in youth subjectivity in an Afghan refugee community, based on work with an Afghan cultural organisation in Mashhad, Iran. She presented this work as a lecture series titled Authentic Verses, Modern Selves: An Ethnography of Afghan Refugee Poetry and Personhood in Iran, as the Evans-Pritchard Lecturer for 2013 at All Souls College, Oxford. She has also sought to address the neglected topics of class and status in post-revolutionary Iran, and contemporary Persian written and oral communicative genres. On the latter, she convened a conference, Contemporary Persian Verbal Culture, 14-15 April 2012).

Her current research takes a more global approach to Afghan cultural production, examining the affective and imaginative role Afghan diasporic communities are playing in creating (or thwarting) an elusive pan-Afghan national identity. She is particularly interested in how young emigre Afghans use new social media and both offline and online cultural activities to construct an Afghan national imaginary or other identities in vibrant and often heated conversations that receive little attention from the 'international community'.


Email: zuzanna.olszewska@anthro.ox.ac.uk


Selected publications

2013, ‘Classy Kids and Down-at-Heel Intellectuals: Status Aspiration and Blind Spots in the Contemporary Ethnography of Iran’, Iranian Studies 46 (6), 2013.

2013, ‘Quetta's Sectarian Violence and the Global Hazara Awakening’, Middle East Report 266 43 (1), 2013, pp. 40-45.

2013, ‘Lyric Realism: Poetic Reflections of Refugee Life in Iran’, In Nile Green and Nushin Arbabzadah (eds) Afghanistan in Ink: Afghan Literatures Between Diaspora and Nation, London and New York: Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2013.

2012, ‘Editorial: An Overview of the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan’, Anthropology of the Middle East: Special Issue on the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan 7 (1), 2012, pp. v-vii.

2011, ‘Afghanistan's Women Poets: A Hidden Discourse’, In Jennifer Heath and Ashraf Zahedi (eds) Land of the Unconquerable: The Lives of Contemporary Afghan Women, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2011, pp. 342-355.

2010, ‘'Hey, Afghani!': Identity Contentions among Iranians and Afghan Refugees’, In Dawn Chatty and Bill Finlayson (eds) Dispossession and Displacement: Forced Migration in the Middle East and Africa, Proceedings of a Conference at the British Academy, 28-29 February 2008, London: British Academy, 2010, pp. 197-214.

2008, with Anna Maciejko, ‘Cultural Aspects of Chechen Integration in Poland’, In Alexander Schahbasi (ed.) Chechens in the European Union, Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2008, pp. 143-164.

2007, ‘A Desolate Voice: Poetry and Identity among Young Afghans in Iran’, Iranian Studies 40 (2), 2007, pp. 203-224.

2007, with Fariba Adelkhah, ‘The Iranian Afghans’, Iranian Studies 40 (2), 2007, pp. 137-165.

  • Claiming an Individual Name: Revisiting the Personhood Debate with Afghan Poets in Iran

  • Writing in Diaspora

  • Writing in diaspora

  • The Poet's Melancholy: Depression, Structures of Feeling, and Creativity among Afghan Refugees in Iran

  • The Pearl of Dari Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran

  • Classy kids and down-at-heel intellectuals: Status aspiration and blind spots in the contemporary ethnography of Iran

  • Quetta's sectarian violence and the global hazara awakening

  • An Overview of the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan

  • A hidden discourse: Afghanistan's women poets

  • ‘Hey, Afghani!’ Identity Contentions among Iranians and Afghan Refugees

  • More
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