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Afghan Rumour Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds and the Everyday Life of the Absurd

Program on Central Asia book talk by Nushin Arbabzadah, UCLA

Thursday, February 26, 2015
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche

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Ironic and humorous, witty and self-deprecatory, The Afghan Rumour Bazaar reveals the quotidian absurdities of lives framed against the backdrop of a savage war. Offering daringly new perspectives on a country readers may erroneously assume they know, Nushin Arbabzadah delves into the unacknowledged but real secret sub-cultures and hidden worlds of Afghans, from underground converts to Christianity to mysterious male cross-dressers to tales of bacha-posh girlboys. Among the individuals, fables and dilemmas she confronts are ‘Why are Imams Telling Us About Nail Polish?’, ‘Afghanistan’s Rich Jewish Heritage’, ‘Kabul Street Style’, ‘The Resurgence of Afghanistan’s Spiritual Bazaar’, and not forgetting Malalai of Maiwand, who turned her headscarf into a banner and led a successful rebellion against the British. Arbabzadah reveals for the first time Afghans’ own vibrant internal deliberations – – on sex and soap operas; conspiracy theories; drugs and diplomacy; terrorism and the Taliban; and how a long-dead soothsayer from Bulgaria accidentally shut down a newspaper. Many different Afghan sensibilities are presented in her book, yet together they offer an unvarnished, at times heartwarming, at times tragic, insight into one of the most complex and fascinating countries on earth.

Raised in Afghanistan and educated in Europe, after completing graduate school in Cambridge, Nushin Arbabzadah worked for the BBC, before moving to Los Angeles where she teaches courses on the Middle Eastern media at UCLA. She is the author of several books, including the widely-reviewed Afghan Rumour Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds and the Everyday.

Sponsor(s): Asia Pacific Center, Program on Central Asia