Persian, Indo-Persian, and Homeless Texts

 persianindo_07032012 He caught up with me as I turned the corner in Connaught Place (C.P.), the shopping hub in central Delhi where I had been running some errands. He was fair-skinned and wearing a checked shirt, jeans and bright sneakers–the basic uniform of young men in urban India. He was probably one of the Kashmiris who hang around C.P. waiting to chat up lost, sweaty tourists. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing in India. I gave the short answer, that I am an American who lives in Delhi for part of each year and that I am a student.

“I am also a student. My subject is English. You study which subject?”

“I study Farsi,” I said, using the name for Persian more commonly understood in India.

“What is… Farsi?”

“It’s a language.”

Our impromptu meeting ended there because I had to catch the metro. In any case, these conversations typically continue with “Would you like to see some shawls?” or “I can sell you cheap tickets to Kashmir—lovely place, where kings used to stay.”

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Resolving Differences in the Desert


Bab’Aziz, the Prince who Contemplated His Soul. Directed by Nacer Khemir. Switzerland /Hungary /France /Germany /Iran /Tunisia /UK, 2005.

“Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis (sic) in the desert.”Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Whether Thoreau really understood the religious ecstasy of Sufi practice firsthand or was offering an off-hand orientalist reference may remain debatable, but what strikes one as most compelling in the above quote is the acute contrast of the simile: a bustling intellectual center and the starkness of an exotic locale.

The desert, that powerful setting, is just the type of place where contradiction, like the one Thoreau offers, seem to resolve themselves and where paradoxes shape reality. It is a landscape where the unseen is as undeniable as the awesome forces of nature that cut the extreme terrain. Nacer Khemir evokes this leviathan of the desert sea and then tries to wrestle a harness over the beast by contrasting it against an alienating modern world.

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Never-Ending Story: The American Press Fails on Iran

ahmadinejad_iran-nuclear-The big, bad Iran nuclear threat is one of the American news media’s favorite evergreen stories. Year after year, it picks up where it left off: Enrichment, sanctions, red lines, the usual.

In November, the media circus on Iran exploded. From Foreign Affairs’ catastrophe “Time to attack Iran,” to The New York Times Magazine’s seemingly-million-word “Will Israel attack Iran?” (Conclusion: Yes, this year), to The Atlantic’s new “Iran War Clock” (It’s 10 minutes to midnight, by the way), the blockbuster stories that paint broad strokes of fear, panic, and war keep rolling out. Continue reading Never-Ending Story: The American Press Fails on Iran

Occupy AIPAC: Continuing a Movement or Mimicking Discourse?

AIPAC_03122012Earlier this month, Occupy AIPAC convened as the national AIPAC conference took place in Washington, D.C. With the drum beats heralding war with Iran growing louder, what seemed lost in both the AIPAC conference and the Occupy AIPAC conference was Palestine. With the Israeli government and supporters of Israel distracting the discourse away from Israeli settlement building, unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, and the continued occupation of Palestinian land, the national AIPAC conference operated under the premise that Israel is a legitimate state actor with legitimate grievances to Iran’s governance over its nuclear energy program. Occupy AIPAC mimicked this distracting discourse in order to counter hollow arguments, from the Israeli government and its supporters, on Iran’s role as a “rational” or “irrational” actor and the role of the Arab revolutions in destabilizing Israel’s political and discursive power within the region. Thus, this action was a semi-unconscious performative result of the compelling Israeli/U.S. discourse, and Occupy AIPAC attempted to subsume itself within this discourse as a means to combat it.

Dry Humor on Humid Grounds

Being a YouTube celebrity requires cutting edge creativity, cunning new media awareness, or utter obliviousity – I like to think of myself as a paragon of all of these.

My name is Hisham Fageeh, and I am the owner of the hit Saudi YouTube comedy channel HishamComedy. The channel is just shy of 3 million views in its 11th week.The channel is distinguished by its stylistic approach to (Saudi) humor, which is a satire faux-vlog of a disenfranchised Saudi guy living in the United States. He uses outdated Hijazi, specifically Makkawi, idiomatic expressions to articulate his disillusioned, cynical view of the American experience.

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