Iran Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Islamic Republic

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Iran dominates the media headlines once again and has taken center stage in the U.S. and European Union strategy toward the Middle East. A more nuanced understanding of Iranian society has assumed even greater significance and urgency. Iran Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Islamic Republic offers crucial insight for students and the general reader into an often misunderstood and complex country that is shrouded in mystery and misperception. Heir to a long history and a great culture and civilization, Iran embodies a rich, complex, and diverse mosaic that defines its national identity. Diversity is also the operative word that describes Iranian landscapes and geography, its multiple ethnic groups and their varied cultures and traditions, as well as the uneven and vastly different levels of economic and industrial development, conflicting political tendencies, and different and often contradictory social and cultural outlooks. Because of its tumultuous recent political history, Iran appears to encapsulate all of these internal differences and stark contrasts somewhat more distinctly than most of its neighbors. The 1978-1979 revolution transformed the society and culture in fundamental ways and redefined social life. It created new institutions of governance and Islamicized the culture, education and the legal system in an attempt to create a new society that would usher in the reign of piety and virtue. Yet, Islamization had to come to terms with pre-Islamic and illustrious Persian history and culture, as well as the realities of an interdependent, postmodern, globalized world in which, as a developing country, Iran resides in the periphery. Within this framework, the dynamics and complexity of social life in the Islamic Republic unfold. This encyclopedia is the source for up-to-date, authoritative information on a full range of critical topics of interest.

Coverage of the Islamic Republic here falls into the general categories of history, politics, economics, society and culture. The most significant aspects of the life in Iran since the revolution-the era of the Islamic Republic so far-are stressed. The wide range of entries shows the richness and complexity of Iranian society, its multiple and varied facets, its expressions and outward manifestations, and its nuanced responses to political repression, instability, war, pervasive crisis and the chronic tension between modernity and tradition. Some of the entries designed to highlight these important phenomena revolve around the country's ethnic mosaic, the social role and position of women, veiling, the educational system, sports, intellectuals, the arts and artistic expression, literature, poetry, cuisine, healthcare, and the family. Other entries range from regionalism and urban development to the petroleum industry, agriculture, the banking system, issues of wealth and poverty, class structure and economic mobility, and the private sector. In a number of significant areas economic, social and cultural phenomena intersect. These intersections are reflected in entries on broadcasting and communications technology, the Internet, public relations, electronic and print media, and family planning and healthcare. A chronology, selected bibliography, and photos complement the entries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Unlike many encyclopedias that attempt to address hundreds of topics in limited detail, this work willingly sacrifices breadth for depth by focusing on fewer topics. These sophisticated, objective articles explore a variety of themes: art, civil society, culture, economy, ethnic groups, foreign relations, government, law, media, people, politics, and women …Recommended for academic and larger public libraries."


Library Journal

"Iran Today delivers a fresh perspective into this complex country that has been surrounded in mystery and controversy since the 1978-1979 Islamic revolution, which transformed the country's society and culture and redefined its social life. The encyclopedia provides up-to-date, authoritative information on the contemporary history, politics, economics, society, and culture of one of the most controversial countries of the Middle East. Highly recommended. Upper-level history undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers/faculty."



"Editors Kamrava (Georgetown University–Qatar) and Dorraj (Texas Christian University) have written a general social encyclopedia of Iranian life after the revolution of 1978. They cover history, politics, society, economics, and culture in articles of three to eight pages. There are biographical articles on public Iranian figures, such as Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, and Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of Iran following the revolution. The tone of the book is balanced in covering important topics in Iranian culture, such as veiling. There are also articles on the many minority groups of Iran, from Kurds to the Qashqa'i, a Turkic-language ethnic group with a historically nomadic culture that lives in southwestern Iran. The editors do not hesitate to discuss the Iranian government's persecution of minorities, particularly the religious minorities such as the Baha'i, Mandaeans, and Jews. It is illegal in Iran for religious minorities to hold government jobs or attend a university of any kind, and the articles reflect the difficult experiences some people face in the conservative religious society created after the revolution. A concise index is helpful in finding topics that may be otherwise difficult to locate, such as the brief discussion of Zoroastrians located in the article on religions. Each article provides a suggested reading list for further information. Overall, the encyclopedia is a comprehensive look at life in Iran today. Because Iran appears in the headlines of American newspapers on a regular basis, this will be a useful text for public and university libraries."



"Overall, this title is a nice contribution to the field and is recommended."



"Anything which gives outsiders a clear picture of that lovely and troubled country is to be welcomed. . . . The encyclopedia is a useful source of information on the current political system of Iran. . . . I would strongly recommend this as a useful source of political, social, theological and economic information. . . . Public and reference libraries, college libraries, and most university libraries can be recommended to consider it."


Reference Reviews

"This two volume set serves as a reference to some of the primary topics relating to post-1979 revolution Iranian culture and politics."


The Middle East Journal

Library Journal

In this timely two-volume set, Kamrava (Georgetown Univ.) and Dorraj (Texas Christian Univ.) banish many of the common misconceptions surrounding modern Iran. Joined by an international cast of academics, they reveal post-revolutionary Iran as a richly diverse nation, far more complex than recent headlines have indicated. Unlike many encyclopedias that attempt to address hundreds of topics in limited detail, this work willingly sacrifices breadth for depth by focusing on fewer topics. These sophisticated, objective articles explore a variety of themes: arts, civil society, culture, economy, ethnic groups, foreign relations, government, law, media, people, politics, and women. The diverse topics covered, some familiar and some unfmailiar, range from the Iran-Iraq war to human rights, the Iranian art diaspora, and the Qashqa'i Confederacy. The work opens with alphabetical and topical lists of the entries plus a chronology of events and concludes with a single index. In between are roughly 100 articles, short lists of suggested readings, a selected bibliography, and notes on the many contributors.
—Daniel Sifton

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313341618
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2008
  • Pages: 543
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

MEHRAN KAMRAVA is Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies, School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Georgetown University. A political scientist, he is the editor of The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity (2006) and the author of The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War (2005), among other works.

MANOCHEHR DORRAJ is Professor of Political Science at Texas Christian University. He is the author of From Zarathustra to Khomeini: Populism and Dissent in Iran (1990) and the editor of The Middle East at the Crossroads: Internal Dynamics and the Foreign Policy Challenges (1999).

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Table of Contents


A Note on Transliteration



Alphabetical List of Entries

Topical List of Entries

The Encyclopedia

Selected Bibliography

About the Editors and Contributors

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