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Methodology Matters in Iran

Researching Social Movements in Authoritarian Contexts

Paola Rivetti

researchers’ awareness of their own positionality in the field but may also reveal aspects of the topic researched that would otherwise remain concealed to ‘external’ eyes. This is particularly relevant when it comes to challenging environments such as Iran

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Erika Friedl

Between 1965 and 2015, Reinhold Loeffler and I studied the lifeways of people in Sisakht, a village (now small town) in the tribal/rural province of Kohgiluye and Boir Ahmad in the Zagros Mountains of southwest Iran. 1 Local people speak Lori, a

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Kuwait and Iran

Mutual Contact in the Pre-oil Era

Yacoub Y. Al-Hijji

This article examines the relations and interaction between Kuwait and Iran before the export of oil from Kuwait in 1946. It begins with a short account of the establishment of Kuwait as a small maritime community, the ramifications of its location amongst its three large neighbours, and Iran's role in helping Kuwait to establish its roots as a seafaring community by providing its earlier inhabitants with basic food requirements. The article then goes on to review several aspects of the interaction between Iran and Kuwait and the influence that these communities have had on one another. It concludes by emphasising that the relationship of mutuality between the two countries must continue in this age of oil and globalisation for the benefit of both peoples.

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Elisabeth Yarbakhsh

Derrida’s hostipitalité formulation provides a framework through which we might begin to explore the relationship between Iranian citizen-hosts and Afghan refugee-guests in the city of Shiraz and the surrounding province. Notions of Iranian hospitality thread through multiple and diverse constructions of Iranian selfhood. Religion, poetry and history speak to what it means to be Iranian, marking out categories of Self and Other and, in doing so, exposing the limits of hospitality in the very spaces that the nation is most acutely felt.

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Agnes G. Loeffler

This article offers an analysis of two medical case histories presented by an Iranian allopathic physician to illustrate the power of diet in the management of disease. Uncovering underlying cultural assumptions about health and health maintenance strategies leads to the following insights: (1) Galenic medical ideas have not been replaced by allopathic theories in the world view of Iranian physicians; (2) allopathic medical treatment options (pharmaceuticals) are applied to indigenous disease categories; (3) there is deep-seated scepticism about etiologic theories of allopathic medicine and its ability to treat certain conditions; (4) the authority of allopathic medicine is not unquestioned in Iran.

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Circling around the really Real in Iran

Ethnography of Muharram laments among Shi’i volunteer militants in the Middle East

Younes Saramifar

Iranian Shi’i believers claim that capturing sorrow and lamentation in their fullest sense falls beyond language and reason. They constantly refer to their inability to articulate in order to explain martyrdom and highlight a form of unsaid that explains all that appears impalpable for them. I undertake a journey among Iranian Shi’i youth to trace the unarticulated and the sense of wonder generated via religious experiences. By way of an ethnography of Muharram lamentation ceremonies, this article highlights how the unarticulated and the un said are socially and politically used in service of Shi’i militancy. I explore those uncharted terrains in the darkness of the Lacanian Real and in terms of how the Real is authenticated in order to address how realities are craft ed and religious subjectivities are enacted in the realm of militancy.

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Women and Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

When HIV Meets Government Morality

Kristin Soraya Batmanghelichi

In Iran, as in many countries worldwide, misinformation and ignorance of HIV/AIDS have encouraged a culture of secrecy and anonymity for those living with HIV. For many HIV-positive women, religious, political and economic pressures complicate their social status and access to health care. Moreover, they must contend with societal discrimination and stigmas associated with the condition. Adding nuance to contemporary studies on gender and sexuality in Iran, this report highlights the colourful narratives of a select group of HIV-positive mothers attending weekly wellness workshops in Tehran. Discussing issues of intimacy, modesty, motherhood and stigmatisation, this article explores one of Iran's expanding communities at risk of infection and the ways in which women with HIV negotiate the stigma of their condition in an Islamic Republic.

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Magdalena Rodziewicz

The rising popularity of ‘white marriages’, relationships between a man and a woman who live together but are not married, has caused a commotion in the Iranian public sphere in the last few years. The debate includes state institutions and religious circles, who feel anxious about the change in gender relations among Iranians, but also academics who elaborate on the causes and consequences of the phenomenon. An important aspect of this controversy concerns legal issues, since according to Shiite law any intimate relationship of an unmarried couple is considered illegal. This article analyses this key aspect of the ongoing dispute and attempts to elaborate on the question of how the gap between people’s expectations and desires and the legal capacity of Islamic rulings is addressed in contemporary Iran.

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Jakob Rigi

The protest movement that emerged in Iran in the wake of the presidential election of 2009 has seen a subsequent decline due to the combined effects of repression and the timidity of the reformist leadership. The growing conflict between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad around the upcoming parliamentary election of March 2012 has created a new political crisis. The radical section of the movement tries to use this split to launch a subversive strategy against the Islamic regime. Alternatively, Khamenei tries to rid himself of the last vestiges of the autonomy of any elected institution and establish a full theocratic dictatorship. Iranian society has two choices—either to subvert the Khamenei regime or to be subjugated by it.

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Reinhold Loeffler

The case of a remote tribal village in southwest Iran demonstrates the circumstances conducive to positive rural development. My research suggests that since the founding of this village around 1880, its people - led by a progressive, literate young chief - successfully defended their realm against incorporation into the neighbouring chiefs' reigns of lawlessness and warfare; introduced and modernised irrigation agriculture and fruit cultivation then unique in the whole region; and embraced formal education. Discussing such adaptive strategies, I argue that a strong ethos of progress and achievement, including civic awareness, motivated local people from the beginning to pursue new ways to improve their livelihood.