Middle East Studies

"Reading Across Borders" | A Book Talk with Aria Fani

Aria Fani poster

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

4:30-6:00 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room (353), 111 Thayer

About the Event
Contrary to the presumption that literary nationalism in the Global South emerged through contact with Europe alone, "Reading across Borders" demonstrates how the cultural forms of Iran and Afghanistan as nation-states arose from their shared Persian heritage and cross-cultural exchange in the twentieth century. In this presentation, Aria Fani will chart the individuals, institutions, and conversations that made this exchange possible, detailing the dynamic and interconnected ways Afghans and Iranians invented their modern selves through new ideas about literature. Fani will illustrate how voluntary and state-funded associations of readers helped formulate and propagate "literature" as a recognizable notion, adapting and changing Persian concepts to fit this modern idea. Focusing on early twentieth-century periodicals with readers in Afghan and Iranian cities and their diaspora, the book exposes how nationalism intensified—rather than severed—cultural contact among two Persian-speaking societies amidst the diverging and competing demands of their respective nation-states. This interconnected history was ultimately forgotten, shaping many of the cultural disputes between Iran and Afghanistan today. 

Islam & the Humanities

About the Speaker 
Aria Fani is an assistant professor of Persian and Iranian studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. He currently serves as the deputy editor of Iranian Studies and co-investigator of the Translation Studies Hub at the UW. He is the author of "Reading Across Borders: Afghans, Iranians and Literary Nationalism" (University of Texas, 2024).

About the Hosts and Commentators
Faiz Ahmed, Joukowsky Family Distinguished Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History
Shahzad Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Professor of History and Religious Studies
Michelle Quay, Lecturer in Persian Language