British Academy Award for innovative Zoroastrian language research

The British Academy’s Global Professorships are designed to strengthen the UK’s research capacity by further enhancing collaborations with internationally renowned scholars. Linguist Prof. Dr. Saloumeh Gholami was recently awarded a Global Professorship at the renowned University of Cambridge.

Linguist Saloumeh Gholami is a member of the board of directors of the LOEWE research cluster „Minority Studies: Language and Identity“ at Goethe University Frankfurt (Photo: @2014 gholami)

The Global Professorships give internationally recognized academics the opportunity to undertake high-risk, curiosity-driven research in the humanities and social sciences at a UK research institution. Recipients are chosen by the highly respected British Academy and UK universities have the right to nominate one researcher per year. Having been nominated by the University of Cambridge, Prof. Dr. habil. Saloumeh Gholami and her research project Persisting Through Change: A Study of Oral Literature and Cultural Interaction in the Zoroastrian Community were ultimately selected by the British Academy for one of a total of eight Global Professorships awarded in 2023. The linguist is a professor of minority languages in the Middle East at Goethe University Frankfurt’s Institute for Empirical Linguistics. Endowed with around €1 million (~ £900,000), her Global Professorship in Cambridge will begin on September 1, 2024.

Saloumeh Gholami will be researching the oral traditions of the Zoroastrians, which have survived in the now endangered Zoroastrian Dari (Behdini) language. Zoroastrianism is considered to be one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, with an estimated 150,000 members, the largest communities of which, in addition to Iran, can be found in India, Pakistan, Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK. Gholami analyzes how oral literature developed in the Zoroastrian community and how – under the influence of the Islamic majority culture – it was handed down. Her multidisciplinary approach sets out to uncover the cultural dynamics between a minority’s language, literature and society in the context of the majority culture. Gholami has served as board member of the Goethe University-led LOEWE research cluster „Minority Studies: Language and Identity“ since 2020. Known by its German acronym, LOEWE is the German federal state of Hesse’s program for the development and promotion of scientific and economic excellence.

In 2022, the president of Goethe University Frankfurt nominated the linguist as a Goethe Fellow at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften – Institute for Advanced Studies. The same year, she was awarded the prestigious fellowship of Oxford University and its Oxford School of Rare Jewish Languages (OSRJL), where she researches Gorani manuscripts in Hebrew script. In 2023, the German Research Foundation (DFG) recognized Saloumeh Gholami’s project, which is funded with around half a million euros, and her commitment to researching Judeo-Iranian languages.

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