Shams, Fatemeh

Homes Unbound: Flight, Displacement, and Homing Desire in Exile Persian Poetry

In the 1980s, a chain of traumatic events in Iran, from an eight-year war to post-revolution political turmoil, forced hundreds of thousands of people to escape their homeland during a wave of mass imprisonment and executions. The exodus included a substantial number of artists, writers, and academics, targeted for their work and beliefs. Their experience gave rise to an important, and woefully overlooked, canon of exilic Persian literature that offers a nuanced and complex documentation of forced displacement, exilic transnational identity, and the troublesome concept of ‘home.’ This essay explores the work of first-generation exiled poets and the ways in which temporal fluctuations of memory and emotion interact with the geographical and corporeal impact of displacement. Drawing on theoretical frameworks of home, migration, and diaspora, the essay challenges ‘home versus exile’ as an oppositional binary, offering a broader definition of exile that rearticulates the meaning of home. 

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