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Being Modern in Iran

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What does it mean to be modern in Iran today? Can one properly speak of modernity in relation to what many consider to be the paradigmatic Islamic state? Since its 1979 revolution seized the world's attention, the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained a subject of misunderstanding, passion, and polemic, making these questions difficult to answer -- or even to ask. This book -- a study of Iran's political culture in the broadest and deepest sense -- looks into both of these questions by examining the tremendous ...

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Overview

What does it mean to be modern in Iran today? Can one properly speak of modernity in relation to what many consider to be the paradigmatic Islamic state? Since its 1979 revolution seized the world's attention, the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained a subject of misunderstanding, passion, and polemic, making these questions difficult to answer -- or even to ask. This book -- a study of Iran's political culture in the broadest and deepest sense -- looks into both of these questions by examining the tremendous changes taking place in Iran today.

Because of the difficulties posed for researchers and journalists by the nature of the regime, those interested in contemporary Iranian social life have had to rely on a small number of specialized studies -- most of which overemphasize the revolution's radical break with the past and focus exclusively on the Republic's Islamic character as the decisive factor in its social reality. But modernity has not simply been banished and excluded from Iran; nor have the effects of globalization passed it by.

Drawing on her extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Iran and an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary Iranian politics and culture, anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah investigates modernity in the Islamic Republic of Iran by looking at the growth of individualism, the bureaucracy, commercial forces, and rationalization in post-revolution Iran.

Being Modern in Iran ranges over such topics as

• taxation and Islamic legitimacy;

• Mayor Kharbaschi's creation of public space in Tehran;

• the culture of giving;

• religious economics;

• the elections of 1996 and 1997, and the popular rejoicing that greeted them;

• the nation-wide soccer craze;

• the changing role of clerics;

• the changing use of the Koran; and

• the growth of competition in all areas of life.

These subjects are brought to life by vignette discussions of pigeon-fanciers, flower symbolism, funeral rites, dreams, self-help manuals, cosmetics, and much more.

Adelkhah avoids a simpleminded dualism between an "odious," backward, and repressive regime on the one side and a "kindly" civil society representing progress and freedom on the other; rather, she argues that a public space is being created through the existence of many religious, political, and economic activities. This sophisticated anthropology of the Iranian state sheds much-needed light on the unique nature of the social experiment Iran has been experiencing since the revolution.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Middle East Journal
For anyone interested in understanding the complexities of contemporary Iranian politics, this book should be mandatory reading.

— Afsaneh Najmabadi

International Journal of Middle East Studies
Precisely how Iranians have fashioned, and are fashioning, their daily life — or, as Adelkhah puts it, 'reinventing their modern life' — is the tantalizing focus of this very interesting... book about Iranian culture and politics.

— Farideh Farhi

Middle East Journal - Afsaneh Najmabadi

For anyone interested in understanding the complexities of contemporary Iranian politics, this book should be mandatory reading.

International Journal of Middle East Studies - Farideh Farhi

Precisely how Iranians have fashioned, and are fashioning, their daily life -- or, as Adelkhah puts it, 'reinventing their modern life' -- is the tantalizing focus of this very interesting... book about Iranian culture and politics.

Journal of Palestine Studies
This fascinating study of postrevolutionary Iran, based on extensive anthropological field research undertaken by Adelkhah in the 1990s, ought to be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the political and social changes in Iran during the past two decades. . . . This highly readable book is especially valuable for teachers looking for a volume that goes beyond simplistic stereotypes about Iran and Islam and also stimulates discussion and comparative analyses among students.
Booknews
Drawing on her extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the country, Adelkhah investigates the political culture in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She shows that modern life was not extinguished by the 1979 revolution and that a new public space is being created through many religious, political, and economic activities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Fariba Adelkhah is a senior researcher at the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI/Sciences-po) in Paris.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Political EarthquakeOne: When Taxes Bloom in TehranI. Giving Islamic Legitimacy to TaxationII. The 'Rentier State' and Taxation in IranIII. A Look Inside the Mayor's GardensIV. Parks as Scenes of ConflictTwo: The Man of Integrity: A Matter of StyleI. Javânmardi is a PackageII. Teyyeb: A Very Ambiguous HeroIII. The Fruit and Vegetable Market: Inventing TraditionIV. Javânmardi and Contemporary LifeV. Javânmardi as a Modern Political 'Imaginaire'Three: The Economics of Beneficence Beings: The Story of an ElectionI. The Election CampaignII. From the First Round to the SecondIII. Local Issues in an ElectionIV. The Strategy of Companies (Sherkat)VI. Politics in its Own Right, No Longer SacredVII. Elections and Political ReformulationFive: A New Space for Islam?I. Institutionalising the Religious SphereII. Rationalising and Individualising Processes in IslamIII. Towards Money Orientation in the Religious FieldSix: Looking after Number One: A Competitive SocietyI. A Sports-mad RepublicII. Competition and Self-ReflexivityIII. Self-Reflexivity and Relations with OthersIV. From Social Relations to Social Regulations?

Columbia University Press

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