The Sound of Persianate Modernity: Gendered Soundscapes in Modern Iran

In: Philological Encounters
Alexander Jabbari Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minnesota USA

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This article considers how sound—especially Persian phonology, but also music—and gender came together in articulating an Iranian national identity distinct from the Persianate past. Through analysis of the film The Lor Girl as well as close readings of poetry from the first half of the twentieth century by Nasīm-i Shumāl, Parvīz Khaṭībī, and poet-laureate Muḥammad-Taqī Bahār, the article demonstrates how an erotic attachment to language was fostered, in which the very phonology of Persian became the object of desire. Pharyngeal consonants became markers of Arab male sexual deviancy against which a feminized Iranian nation was to be protected. This eroticized discourse of language also contributed to establishing the Tehrani dialect as the Iranian national standard. The article considers how nationalism and modernity impacted the Iranian soundscape, as well as the impact of developments in Iran on Persian and Urdu in South Asia.

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