ASPS 2013 Conference, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Dear Colleagues, Greeting!
As most of you are aware, from Sept. 2nd through the 6th, the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS) successfully launched its Sixth Biennial Conference in the beautiful city of Sarajevo. Dubbed “an historic event the likes of which shall occur every 100 years in Sarajevo,” by the consensus of all, ASPS/Sarajevo 2013 was one of the most successful of our conferences to date. Continuing on with the tradition of excellence in our Biennial Conventions, ASPS/Sarajevo brought together a large number of highly acclaimed international scholars from over 20 countries, as well as some of the most prestigious academic institutions from Asia, Europe and North America. As all remarked, especially noteworthy was the great and truly international scope and presence of scholars from the Persianate world, which besides scholars from the US and Europe, included colleagues from Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Israel, India, Iran, and of course Bosnia-Herzegovina. In collaboration with its academic partners in Sarajevo, ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013 thus hosted around 46 panels and close to 250 participants. The conference show-cased a rich array of scholarly papers, presented by some of the most renowned as well as younger, rising stars, and scholars in the field of Persianate studies. The consensus of the participants was that it was one of the best conferences in Studies of the Iranian ecumene that they had attended thus far.
Led by the untiring efforts of our newly appointed Regional Director in Sarajevo, Dr. Ahmed Zildžić, Professor Snježana Buzov, and our Host and US Organizing Committees, ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013 was the result of more than a year of preparation and collaboration between ASPS and its hosts and Co-Sponsors in Sarajevo. Foremost amongst these latter were the Bosniac Institute, Adil Zulfikarpašić Foundation, Sarajevo, which, under the kind and exemplary directorship of Ms. Amina Rizvanbegović-Džuvić, graciously provided ASPS with the historic and exquisite site of the Bosniac Institute as a venue for the Conference. Built in the center of the city and incorporating the impeccably, partially renovated, structures of a 16th century Ottoman Hamam, the beautiful domains of the Bosniak Institute was thus one of the two main venues of the conference. Over-looking an Ottoman caravansary, Hotel Europe, with its restored Austrian Café, and beautiful terraces, was a second venue of the Conference.
Another important partner and sponsors of ASPS in Sarajevo was the Oriental Institute, which under the capable directorship of Dr. Behija Zlatar, provided the necessary logistic and administrative support for the conference. ASPS/Sarajevo was also most fortunate in obtaining the remarkably generous Co-Sponsorship of the Gazi Husrev Beg Library, which under the directorship of Mr. Mustafa Jahić, and Mr. Osman Lavić, its librarian, graciously show-cased an exhibition -- held throughout the conference –of some of the most unique, early modern, Persian manuscripts, from amongst thousands, currently held at the Gazi Husrev Beg library. The participants were especially impressed by the great wealth and number of early modern manuscripts held at the Gazi Husrev Beg library, and the knowledge that they garnered of the very existence of this rich treasure of Persian Mss. in Sarajevo, has already paved the way for research possibilities in Sarajevo for the participants. The library also graciously opened the doors of its small and exquisite museum to the participants of the conference for duration of the event. Throughout the conference, the Bosniac Institute also show-cased a small collection of its rare and exquisite Persian Mss., numbered close to a thousand in total. The Mss. of the Bosniac Institute were put on display at the beautiful Ottoman hamam of the Institute. The book exhibit of the conference, organized by Ms. Golfam Ghafourifar, with the collaboration of colleagues that the Bosniac Institute, was also located at the premises of the Institute. Coffee breaks between panel sessions were held in the charming lounges decorated on the Austrian model at the Institute and the delightful terraces of Hotel Europe.
ASPS was also grateful for having the Co-Sponsorship of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Sarajevo, under the deanship of Prof. Dr. Ivo Komšić, Dean, the Department of Oriental Philology, UNSA; and St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery, Sarajevo.
ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013, was honored to also have the Co-Sponsorship of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Ministry of Culture, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Honorable Professor Doctor Ivo Komšić, Mayor of Sarajevo; the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sports, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the honorable Salmir Kaplan, Minister, and finally the Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo, and professor Ćazim Hadžimejlić.
In the Inaugural Night of the Conference, on Sept. 2nd, Professor Said Amir Arjomand, who functioned as the Master of Ceremonies, began the evening with highlighting the achievements of ASPS under the leadership of its current President, Prof. Parvaneh Pourshariati, and the success of the ASPS Board of Directors and Organizing Committees, in launching one of the largest ASPS conferences in the history of the Association. The ceremonies were then continued by the address of the Honorable Professor Doctor Ivo Komšić, Mayor of Sarajevo, who after welcoming the participants underlined the importance of international conferences of this kind in forging new academic collaborations between scholars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and those from other Persianate societies and the Western world.
The gracious Ms. Amina Rizvanbegović-Džuvić, the Director of the Bosniac Institute, then delivered a speech wherein, after welcoming the participants, she detailed the fascinating history of the Bosniac Institute and its founder, Adil Zulfikarpaša and the Adil Zulfikarpašic Foundation. Dr. Ahmed Zildžić, the capable Regional Director of the ASPS in the Balkans (Oriental Institute, Sarajevo), (who is incidentally fluent in Persian), and Professor Snježana Buzov, both also members of the Board of Directors of ASPS and the Chairs of the Host Committee of the conference, followed suit, to welcome the participants, with Dr. Zildžić providing the audience with the history of the destructions wrought on the Oriental Institute and its extensive Persian manuscript collections during the war years, and its revival in its aftermath.
Professor Salma Farooqui, the chair of the Host Committee of ASPS/Hyderabad 2012, then followed suit, bearing the well-wishes of our dear colleague, Professor Mohammad Miyan, Vice Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU). (As you are all aware, it was through the Co-Sponsorship and delightful hospitality of MANUU, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, that the memorable ASPS/Hyderabad 2012 conference was held.) Professor Salma Farooqui then delivered a Memorandum by Vice Chancellor, Professor Mohammad Miyan, in which the details of a new and unprecedented, Visiting Scholar Fellowship (please see the announcement below), and the collaboration between MANUU and ASPS were outlined. Finally, underlining that the historic foresight in founding the ASPS rests with Professor Said Amir Arjomand, the Founder and past President of the ASPS, and thanking the Vice President of the Association, Professor Jo-Ann Gross, for her unrelenting support, as well as dedicated service to the ASPS through close to two decades, Parvaneh Pourhariati, the President of ASPS, delivered her academic talk on “History in Epic: The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.”
On September 3rd 2013, with the commencement of the conference, the exhibition of the Gazi Husrev Beg Library also opened, with the introductory remarks of the Director of the Gazi Husrev Beg Library, Mr. Mustafa Jahić, and Mr. Osman Lavić,the chief librarian of the Gazi Husrev Beg. Among other highlights of the conference was also an exhibition of exquisite Sarajevan calligraphy, organized through the efforts of Professor Snježana Buzov, which was likewise opened on Sept. 3rd in the Gazi Husrev Beg Khaneqah.
By far one of the greatest highlights of ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013, was the Association’s unique and unprecedented ceremonies for honoring and paying tribute to, the leading fiction-writer of 20th and 21st centuries Iran, Mr. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. Under the auspices of the ASPS, the event was organized through the Artistic Directorship of Ms. Ariana Barkeshli, the Iranian “Keyboard Scheherazade,” and the Artistic Director of the Conference. In a memorable evening of celebration, the Master of Ceremonies of the Tribute Night, Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, and the Convener, Professor Pourshariati, participants celebrated and paid tribute to a life time of literary achievement by the Iranian Laureate, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. The Tribute Night began by the welcoming remarks of the Convener of the event, Pourhariati, and continued with a lecture by Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, one of the foremost scholars of classical and modern Persian literature, on the life and times of the Master fiction-writer of contemporary Iran, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. Mr. Dowlatabadi then delivered a key-note speech, Words Etched in Rock, The Artist’s View of His Life and Art, where the audience was captivated by a poignant and touching piece, composed and read by the writer, of his life and work. Maestro Ariana Barkeshli’s brilliant performance of pieces by modern Iranian composers, Aminollah Hossein and Alireza Mashayeki, then alternated with readings of excerpts of the work of Mr. Dowlatabadi by the writer himself, which were then read in an English translation by Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak.
Under the Artistic Directorship of Ms. Ariana Barkeshli, ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013 also had the honor of featuring the renowned Persian classical vocalist and musician, Ms. Sepideh Raissadat, and her ensemble, Mr. Pasha Karami and Mr. Iman Vaziri, who joined the eastern musical tradition with that of the Balkans, with the performance of the celebrated Amira Medunjanin, on Sept. 5th, for a memorable night of music. On Sept. 6th, a substantial number of the participants joined on the trip that ASPS/SARAJEVO had organized to the beautiful, Persianate city, of Mostar, where, on the way, they also paid a visit to a beautiful khaneqah near the city and had lunch (trout!) by the river.
Amongst the participants in the conference were the delegation of colleagues from Iran and Tajikistan, who were graciously sponsored by the American Institute of Iranian Studies and the CERF Fund provided by the generous contributions of the Goelet Foundation. For these colleagues, the conference provided a unique venue for attending panels, giving papers, meeting colleagues from other parts of the world and creating scholarly connections and networks. Their flood of thank you emails after the conference to the ASPS underlined the tremendous and memorable academic and personal experience that they garnered through their participation in ASPS/SARAJEVO 2013.
All those who have been involved in organizing conferences of this kind are fully aware that tremendous work for organizing the conference cannot be sustained by any one person. ASPS/SARAJEVO was no exception to this rule, having been organized by the untiring efforts of the Host Organizing Committee: Ahmed Zildžić (ASPS Regional Director, Oriental Institute, Sarajevo), Snježana Buzov (The Ohio State University), Amina Rizvanbegović-Džuvić (The Bosniak Institute), Behija Zlatar (Oriental Institute, Sarajevo), Munir Drkić (University of Sarajevo), as well as the efforts, above and beyond the call of duty, of the US Organizing Committee of the Conference, composed of Pooriya Alimoradi (University of Toronto), Said Amir Arjomand (SUNY Stony Brook). Ariana Barkeshli (Dutchess Community College), Snježana Buzov (The Ohio State University), Ghazzal Dabiri (Columbia University), Saghi Gazerani (Journal of Persianate Studies), Jo-Ann Gross (The College of New Jersey), Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak (University of Maryland), and Rudi Matthee (University of Delaware) and Paul Losensky (Indiana University). To all who in way or another contributed to the success of the conference, I would like to extend my most sincere gratitude and thanks. I would like to especially single out my dear colleagues, Pooriya Alimoradi, Snježana Buzov, Ghazzal Dabiri, Saghi Gazerani, Jo-Ann Gross, Paul Losensky, Arzetta Losensky, Ahmed Zildžić, and Ariana Barkeshli without whose dedicated support and help none of this would have been possible.
Beyond the support of our membership, to each and every single one of whom I remain personally grateful, moreover, ASPS/SRAJEVO 2013 would not have transpired has it not been for the generous funding and co-sponsorship provided by our sister organizations and individual patrons and donors. On behalf of the ASPS, I would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to The American Institute of Iranian Studies; The Iran Heritage Foundation; John Goelet Charitable Foundation; Soudavar Memorial Foundation; Mr. Mehrdad Nadooshan & Ms. Nilou Safavieh; The Armenian Studies Program, University of Ann Arbor/Michigan; The Rumi Institute; Mr. Dariush Borbor, Director, Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS); Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures/The Ohio State University; Foundation for Iranian Studies; Iran Nameh; British Institute of Persian Studies; Roshan Center for Persian Studies and Mr. Gus Khamneipur. My personal and sincere gratitude is also extended to friends and colleagues without whose aid it would have been well-nigh impossible to raise the funds necessary for ASPS/Sarajevo 2013! To Vahid Alaghband, Ali Ansari, Sussan Babaie, Kathryn Babayan, Fatemeh Keshavar-Karamustafa, Mohamad Tavakoli, Mohamad Dowlatiani, Erica Ehrenberg, Jo-Ann Gross, Franklin Lewis, Lloyd Ridgeon, Rachel Milstein, and Kevin van Bladel, therefore, I remain indebted for their remarkable generosity and help!