Poetry and Politics in Iran: The Power of Verse
People would be surprised if the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte would regularly quote the poet Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) when communicating with Dutch citizens. The use of poetry in the Dutch public sphere is hardly politically coloured. In Iran, however, classical poetry is a living tradition, and poetry is regularly used to reinforce arguments of politicians. Ayatollah Khomeini, for one, frequently used poetry to express his religious ideals and his advocacy for Islamic government. Later, during the Iran-Iraq War, it played an important role in state propaganda promoting Iranian national identity and legitimating the use of violence.
Asghar Seyed-Gohrab is an Associate Professor of Persian and Iranian Studies at Leiden University, who is specialised in Islamic spirituality and Persian mysticism – in particular in relation to modern political developments. In this lecture, he will analyse the aesthetics and the role of poetry in different political domains and explain the paradoxical relationship between them. The questions that he would like to answer are: why is poetry used in an (international) political context at all? How does it translate into action? Is poetry a means to stop the Western political invasion as perceived by conservative Iranian politicians – and how can something ‘peaceful’ like a poem even incite people to violence?
This event is free and open to everyone.