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Afghanistan in Ink: Literatures of Nation, War, and Exile

A one-day conference focusing on the development of Afghanistan's national literature over the past 50 years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
314 Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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From the communist, nationalist and Islamist movements of the 1960s through the years of war, exile and reconstruction that followed, the turmoil of Afghan history in the past half century has been at every step reflected in an extraordinary but little-known tradition of literature. What began as a self-consciously national literature was transformed with the mass exodus of refugees in the 1980s and 90s from a tradition rooted in Afghanistan’s geography and society to a literature of diaspora written in French and English no less than Dari and Pashto. From oral story-telling through the literary journals of the 1960s to the poetry websites of the present, the conference explores the whole range of genres and media through which this literature has been produced. By unraveling the tensions that are written through this literature -- of diaspora and homeland, globalization and tradition, community and nation, gender and expression -- the conference aims to highlight the ways in which Afghans of many different backgrounds have understood their own history from the Cold War to the Taliban and beyond.

Introductions and Coffee
10:00 am

Introduction by Nushin Arbabzadah, UCLA

Panel I. Literature and the trauma of history
Chair: Nushin Arbabzadah

10:15 am – 12:00 pm

The Temporality of Selfhood: Azhdaha-i Khudi as an Allegory of History
Wali Ahmadi, UC Berkeley

Afghan Discourses of Occupation Today: Oral and Literary Proverbs and Aphorisms in Uncertain Times
Margaret Mills, Ohio State University

Lunch Break
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Panel II. Writing Exile: Afghanistan from abroad
Chair: Aamir Mufti

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Solitude, Diaspora, and Narration: Epic Memory in Afghan and Afghan-American Literature
Shafiq Shamel, Stanford University

Nation, War and Exile as Portrayed in Afghan Diasporic Fiction: The Case of Muhammad Asef Soltanzadeh
Dr. Mir Hekmatullah Sadat

Coffee Break
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Panel III. Negotiating Iran: From Dari to Farsi and back
Chair: Nikki Keddie

3:30 – 5:00 pm

Intimate Realism: Recording the Experience of Exile in
Second-Generation Refugee Poetry in Iran

Zuzanna Olszewska, St. John’s College, Oxford University

Turning on the Taliban: Radical fiction from the Sewing Circles of Herat
Nushin Arbabzadah, UCLA

Closing Remarks
5:00 – 5:10 pm

Closing remarks by Nushin Arbabzadah, UCLA


Working paper, "War Crimes and Psychological Trauma: Afghan Diasporic Fiction on Afghanistan" by Mir Hekmatullah Sadat is now available.

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Amy Bruinooge, Center for Near Eastern Studies
(310) 825-1455

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia, Program on Central Asia