The South Side of Heaven

A Journey along the Iranian Collective Memory in Iran-Iraq War Memorial Sites

in Anthropology of the Middle East
Younes Saramifar Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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I portray mnemonic practices of Iranians who engaged with the past and keep the memories of martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) alive within frames and words. Through pictures taken during the annual commemoration of martyrs in southern Iran, I show how religiosity, politics and generational guilt are entangled in post-war Iran. I move against the grains of memory studies and visual anthropology by maintaining the silences and what is left unsaid instead of rendering war memories, acts of remembering and ways of seeing epistemologically coherent. I argue remembering is a practice locally shaped according to the politics of everyday life and not by imagined presupposition of memory scholars. Therefore, I draw an ontological approach towards memories in Iran by ways of seeing and religious worldview of those implicated in the Iranian memory machine.

Contributor Notes

Younes Saramifar is a Cultural Anthropologist in the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is a combat zone ethnographer engaged with the anthropology of memory, conflict and material religion. His research focuses on militancy and non-state armed actors in the Middle East and Central Asia. He is currently Einstein Research Fellow at the Humboldt University of Berlin. His latest publication is ‘Tales of Pleasures of Violence and Combat Resilience among Iraqi Shi'i Combatants Fighting ISIS’ in the Journal of Ethnography. Email:

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