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ISMC alumna’s latest successes

Aug 23, 2016

Fatemeh Shams, a graduate from AKU’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (ISMC), continues to receive widespread acclaim for her academic and literary work.
Fatemeh’s insightful exploration of Iranian culture, literature and social history has seen her poetry collection When They Broke Down the Door pick up a prestigious award, the Latifeh Yarshater prize for 2016, which honours work that advances scholarship about Iran and contributes to the status of women. The prize
is awarded every two years to a female Iranian writer whose work is deemed to be innovative.  

Speaking soon after she received the Latifeh Yarshater prize, Dr Shams said; “I was very happy.  It’s a very prestigious prize and I feel lucky but also very humbled.”

“When you write poetry it can feel detached, especially when one is forced to live away from home. When something like this happens, it reinforces that people do read this kind of work and care about it.”   

Fatemeh has also recently secured a publishing contract for her PhD thesis in Persian literature at Oxford University, where she began her academic career after completing an MA in Muslim Cultures at ISMC in 2008. Since leaving ISMC, Dr Shams has published three poetry collections with her efforts leading to the 2012 award of Best Young Iranian Poet by the Jaleh Esfahani Foundation​, based in London, which promotes Persian poetry.

To date, Dr Shams’s varied literary and academic career has seen her explore interests such as the social history of Persian literature and the cultural history of Iran.  Her work, which has been translated into four languages, represents an intimate view of the changes in Iran’s socio-political and cultural currents, and their impact on the country and its diaspora. 

Dr Shams said: “ISMC gave me the opportunity to live differently and to see the world differently…it has been the main platform for me as a scholar and writer to continue both my education and literary career with freedom.”

Dr Shams is now ready to take the next step in her academic career. After teaching Persian Literature at the University of Oxford’s Oriental Institute, she is set to move to the United States to teach modern Iranian literature and Iranian cinema. 

ISMC Director David Taylor said: “We congratulate Fatemeh on another award! At the ISMC we pride ourselves on our ability to illuminate historical and contemporary aspects of Muslim societies and to create graduates who can make a meaningful contribution to society. We wish Fatemeh even further success in her academic and literary pursuits.” 

Dr Shams, who received a scholarship from ISMC, credits the University’s distinctive approach to understanding culture and its pluralistic ethos for helping develop her academic and literary career.

“The programme was really intensive, the courses completely opened my mind and challenged my thinking.  The time I spent at ISMC has given me incredibly memorable experiences and I made some great friends, some of whom I am still in touch with even now. We were together so much, studying, living, travelling and eating – it really was like a family!”​

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