The Weight of History

Visual Narratives for an Autobiographic Archaeology


  • Maria Theresia Starzmann Vera Institute of Justice
  • Leila Papoli-Yazdi Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg



autobiography, historical archaeology, Iran, narrative, visual culture


In an attempt at situating the experiences of common people within larger historical structures, this paper takes inspiration from innovative historiographical approaches, in particular "history from below". After introductory thoughts on the practice of writing history, we trace several distinct yet interconnected moments in the political history of Iran that have unfolded over the course of three generations. Our textual narrative is accompanied by an artistic rendering, which not only encourages readers to recognize different formats through which the past can be accessed, but also invites them to experience history as an accumulation of storylines. 


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Author Biographies

Maria Theresia Starzmann, Vera Institute of Justice

Maria Theresia Starzmann is a Research Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit research and policy organization. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Binghamton University and was previously Assistant Professor at McGill University in Montreal and the Free University in Berlin. Her academic work focuses on decolonial critiques of academic knowledge production, memory and historical justice, and the history of prisons and camps.

Leila Papoli-Yazdi, Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg

Leila Papoli-Yazdi is a Researcher at the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg. She is an archaeologist of the recent past. In 2003, she began a project in disaster archaeology in the city of Bam, which had just been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake. She has also directed several research projects in Pakistan, Kuwait and Iran. The main themes of her work are oppression, gender, colonialism and violence. Her archaeological studies of political opposition and nationalism are pioneering in Iran.


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How to Cite

Starzmann, M. T., & Papoli-Yazdi, L. (2020). The Weight of History: Visual Narratives for an Autobiographic Archaeology. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 7(1), 23–47.



Visual Archaeologies