Zuzanna Olszewska has won the 2017 MES Book Award for The Pearl of Dari

Congratulations to Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Tutorial Fellow in Archaeology and Anthropology at St John’s, who has won the 2017 MES Book Award from the American Anthropological Association. The Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association awarded Dr Olszewska the prize for her recent book The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood Among Young Afghans in Iran (Indiana University Press). 

Commenting on their choice, they said ‘Interspersed with poetry that is used as ethnographic data and analyzed as literature, the book is rich, original, and beautifully written. For a work that makes significant contributions to so many different topics in anthropology – poetics, refugees, gender, political Islam, and more – it is remarkably modest in presentation. The analysis unfolds through intimate stories, readings of poems, descriptions of lives and events. The arguments are clear and also presented with great subtlety. Providing an account of the lived experiences of people in this lesser-known refugee population in the Middle East is a significant contribution on its own; Pearl of Dari does this and so much more.’

Dr 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. 

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