The birth of the abestāg

I am delighted to be giving a lecture as part of the Pourdavoud Center Lecture Series on 11 January 2023. I will talk about the role of the Sasanians and philology in the creation and transmission of the abestāg, which is my preferred term for the collection of the texts we have come to know as the Avesta.

You can register for the lecture here.

Scholars have often discussed Zoroastrianism as an ancient Iranian religion that reaches back thousands of years into the middle of the second millennium BCE. For a long time, the idea of monolithic continuity has dominated the scholarly discourse in the study of this religion. While Boyce preferred a theological continuity, a view mostly rejected today, others have ardently, but to my mind unconvincingly, argued for ritual continuity. Both camps have at some point associated all pre-Islamic empires, but particularly the Achaemenid and Sasanian eras, with the religious system of Zoroastrianism. After a brief examination of these views, I will lay out some methodological concerns as a challenge to the discipline, before turning my attention to the reception of an antique Iranian heritage in the Sasanian era (224–651 CE). I will argue that the late antique response played a major role in forming the heritage it was claiming as its own.

Book Award

I am delighted and honoured to be the recipient of the inaugural AIS Book Prize for Ancient Iranian Studies for my book, Zoroastrian Scholasticism in Late Antiquity: The Pahlavi version of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti. The prize was announced at the 13th Biennial Iranian Studies Conference, which took place in Salamanca, Spain. As I have said before, I am grateful to the Edinburgh University Press for their support, Prof. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, the series editor, for giving this book a home early on, and to all publishing staff for putting up with my XeLaTeX shenanigans so patiently. I look forward to my forthcoming projects with the EUP.

با کمال خوشحالی به اطلاع دوستان میرسانم که کتابم، با عنوان “اسکولاستیک زرتشتی در دوره پساباستان”، در سیزدهمین کنفرانس دوسالانه‌ی ایران شناسی در سالامانکای اسپانیا موفق به دریافت اولین «جایزه کتاب AIS برای مطالعات ایران باستان» گردید. از حمایتهای انتشارات دانشگاه ادینبورگ و ویراستار محترم، پروفسور لوید لولین جونز برای پذیریش زودهنگام کتاب و دیگر همکاران انتشارات به‌سبب تحمل شیطنتهای XeLaTeX من قدردانی می کنم و مشتاقانه منتظر پروژه های بعدی خود با EUP هستم.

Were Sogdians Iranian?

This question is being discussed on Twitter, and I was tagged to respond. I honestly don’t know how to do it in a meaningful way on Twitter, as embedded responses are often lost and not seen. I stay away from sub-tweets and believe this topic is too hot to be touched on Twitter anyway :) Below is my simple view:

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There and back again

Reading ‘The Hobbit’ has not been as rewarding as I expected. I was hoping for an epic journey, one that I can read and reread, one that will make me restless, but it has not felt right. Maybe it’s an age thing.

Still, maybe it has had an effect, for I’ve been thinking about mountains again and feel a hiking trip coming up. I often pretend that I can find beauty in the ‘small things and every day deeds’ and thought I had found one here, on this very earth, but it turned out to be an illusion, nothing but a beautiful dream. In heights, where the air can be thin, we tend to hallucinate and imagine things. But for some reason those seem more meaningful than the delusions of the lowlands.

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Not on Twitter

I have been thinking about leaving Twitter for a while now. Not for one, but for many reasons which are not important. I joined Twitter in 2013 and a couple of years later deleted my Facebook account. I have never regretted that decision and feel the time has come to make a soft exit on Twitter. My Twitter app has been under focus mode and timer restrictions, so called digital well-being, for a long time, so that I could reduce my interaction with the platform. I will not delete my account, but have now logged out of the app. I will continue to share the BiblioIranica posts on my profile and might share any post that I write here on my Twitter. But I will not engage with the timeline and will not read direct messages.

If you like to get in touch, please do so on e-mail. I love to hear from you, but social media are not really for me.

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Zoroastrian Scholasticism

The paperback of my book is here! You can order a copy from the Edinburgh University Press. I am grateful to the series editor, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, for giving this book a home and to the editors at the EUP for guiding me through the publication process.

I list the reviews of my book here, and wrote for the EUP a blog about the content of the book and my approach which you can read here.

Now, I get ready for my second book.

Voice, privilege and writing

The debate about privilege and representing others in writing fascinates me. Who gets to be whose voice? How do you represent others and what role do publishers play in these debates? Does art need to node to the vagaries of social media? Can art provoke? If so, what are the limits, who defines them and what constitutes privilege and/or racism, othering etc? Following up on the Clanchy controversy, the Guardian has a nuanced piece discussing some of these questions.

The idea that writers who tackle difficult subjects cannot necessarily rely on their publishers’ backing in a storm clearly alarms some. One literary agent was approached recently by a white writer, asking if it was still acceptable to write a mixed-race character. “I said, ‘Yes, you’re a novelist – of course you can, but what you do have to prove is that you’ve done proper research, that you’re not just objectifying that character,’” she says. “That’s what fiction is for. It’s to do with looking through other people’s eyes.” But in nonfiction, she concedes, a more permanent shift may be under way. “Maybe we’ve too easily thought that we can tell anybody’s story without any deep understanding.”

The Guardian

Roma in the Medieval Islamic World

Today we had Kristina Richardson, @krisrich, speak to us at the @invisible_east. She delivered a fascinating lecture based on her recent book, which has opened my eyes to a large set of theoretical questions to be asked in the study of ancient and late antique history of any geography.

The birth of the abestāg

My part in the WZO’s annual seminar this coming Sunday along with my @invisible_east colleagues, @ArezouAzad, Hugh Kennedy and Tommy Benfey:

The birth of the abestāg from the spirit of philology

سخنرانی من در سمینار سالانه «سازمان جهانی زرتشتیان» یکشنبه این هفته به همراه همکارانم در گروه پژوهشی «شرق مکنون».