Afrassiabi Lecture Pushes against Boundaries of Persian and Iranian Studies

Submitted by Rick Aguilar on

On February 1, the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures held its annual Afrassiabi distinguished lecture in Persian and Iranian studies. The lecture series highlights informed and generative perspectives on Iran and Persian literature in a variety of disciplines and topics. The inaugural lecture was delivered in 1999 by Dick Davis, the eminent English translator of Persian poetry and academic. Since then, eighteenth speakers have given talks at the University of Washington.

This year, the lectureship turned twenty five years old. MELC celebrated this milestone by holding a series of unique and well-attended events that pushed against the boundaries of Persian and Iranian studies, two fields that are problematically conceptualized as singular in American academia. This problem of cultural singularity, one of the most salient features of area studies, has generated wrongheaded and ahistorical ideas: framing Persian language and literature as the exclusive patrimony of Iran and the erasure of Iran’s other languages of cultural importance (i.e. Azeri Turkish, Armenian, Georgian).