The Identity Series
SEASON 1, EPISODE 5: ARMEGHAN TAHERI
In our fifth episode Inaya Hussain is joined by Armeghan Taheri, who alongside being a writer, editor, publisher, essayist, also currently curates and runs an online magazine - What’s Afghan Punk Rock Anyway? The magazine itself is a collection of works exploring many taboo subjects which affect the Afghan diaspora. Armeghan shares her experiences as part of the Afghan diaspora and delves into the intricacies of love and politics, and how they manifest into her everyday life.
ON UPBRINGING AND IDENTITY
Armeghan is Afghan-German and was born in Iran, where her family was undocumented. When she was 5 years of age, her family was granted political asylum in Germany.
Armeghan recalls that during her upbringing she was surrounded by other working class immigrants, and this was her social community until she reached university. It was once she reached higher education that she started feeling different in relation to the people around her.
“The way I spoke, the way I had to kind of learn how to survive and talk and use language and mannerisms in that space, it became very, very different. That kind of disconnected me from myself a little bit.”
On South Asian identity, Armeghan shares that she has never identified as South Asian, for it was never an identity she felt part of due to an array of complex cultural and political factors. She has always described herself as being Asian, and sees Afghanistan as a firmly Asian country, with important political, social and cultural history in the continent.
“It's a complex question- I see Afghanistan as being apart of Asia, and when people as where I am from I say Asia, and people are usually ignorant as f*** and are like, that's not Asia.”
RELATIONSHIPS WITH WHITENESS
“My best partnership that I ever had in my life was with a white man. That was so interesting for me becasue I was like how do I engage in an interracial relationship with a white man? He is working class, and I feel like that was something where there was a certain understanding between us, and that also made him grow up around people of colour.”
Armeghan shares how this relationship was an experience in navigating boundaries with whiteness, both personally and collectively, as a couple. She goes on to discuss how she has seen friendships come and go because of the anger she felt towards whiteness and the embodied power dynamics which become translated into personal relationships as a result:
“I wasn’t even able to sit them down and tell them what it was that actually hurt me so much because I was so in pain and so traumatized, and so angry with them that the resentment built up and I just walked away from that friendship.”
LOVE AND POLITICS
“There is a constant need of politising your friendships and of course, relationships are always political and I don't want to take politics out of it. But sometimes if I know people for a long time and I know their f****** heart, and they know me there should be a certain level of respect for what I am saying and what I am coming from needs to be heard.”
Speaking with and confronting friends is important to Armeghan, and she believes that there needs to be a certain understanding of politics and power, and how they manifest within relationships and friendships. She thinks that the people you love should be willing to put in the work to confront these dynamics, so they do not end up causing harm from being ignored.
“In order for us to transform society - we need to also allow them to have imperfections”
Armeghan goes on to talk about how imperfect and ignorant she can be too and that we need to see everyone as fully human and imperfect.
WHAT'S PUNK ROCK GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Armeghan celebrates her magazine as a place where the diaspora can exist in their heterogeneity and multidimensionality.
“It gives me so much hope for the future of how we as a community and how we perceive or shape the future and our understanding of how we want to function in the future as a community”
The themes in the magazine are a taboo subject matter in most communities; mental illness, addiction, sexual violence, domestic violence, homophobhia, transphobia and the violence that Armeghan and others experienced in the Afghan community.
“It's such a safe space because we can finally talk about it without having to fear that the white tabloids going to pick them up and write a headline over it with a brown man and can put anyone in danger, but it was an intercommunal intervention that bought these things openly”
She goes on to state:
“Once you talk about these things you can also let them go, once you acknowledge things collectively you can move on from that”
Armeghan shares that through the magazine’s progression, there are signs of collective, communal healing. Where the first issue explored hard-hitting subjects like trauma and pain, the second was focused a lot more on love and healing, with the third containing visions for the future.
Thank you to the Podcast team who worked on this series, including Inaya Hussain, Tasha Mathur, Nishma Jethwa and Minnie Bhullar.
Music produced by Substeppers
Substeppers are British Asian bass music duo combining the precision of Sunny Banger, with the mastery of Vxks. After a long hiatus, they are back to capitalize on their early success and send ripples of their new sounds all around the world. With consistent support from the likes of BBC, MTV & Mixmag, their newest EP entitled Bollywood Trap led them to become the BBC Introducing's first British Asian production duo. The Substeppers project aims to take people to another world with their latest single & explore eastern themes combined with progressive ideas, through the lens of electronic world music.
Artwork produced by KakiKasi
KakiKasi is currently based in the Bay Area, California with roots in the American Midwest and Punjab. They are an artist, writer and overall community-centred creature. You can find some of their artwork @KakiKasi and some of the work they’ve curated of South Asian queer and feminist art @popadumart.