Militancy and Martyrs’ Ghostly Whispers

Disbelieving History and Challenges of Inordinate Knowledge in Iran

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Author:
Younes Saramifar Assistant Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Abstract

The so-called Iranian revolutionary youth's aspirations for martyrdom are not based merely on Islamist doctrines or Islamic ideologies. They readily place all fallen combatants in a ‘martyrdom box’, linking them to Islamic sacrality and claiming they feel martyrs via martyrs’ ghostly whispers. Through ethnographic journeys in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, I unpack how they craft the ‘martyrdom box’ and communicate with the ghostly whispers. I argue that the Iranian revolutionary youth's perceptions of martyrdom and militant subjectivities emerge in relation to disbelieving histories that contest the state's narratives and their mystical relationships with martyrs. This article takes Iranian revolutionary youth as exemplars to explain how individuals implicated in political violence craft acts of ‘knowing’ and render death and dead ‘knowable’. In other words, instead of asking what is known, I proceed by unpacking how what is known becomes real and how the act of knowing contributes to the emergence of reality.

Résumé

En Iran, les soi-disant aspirations de la jeunesse révolutionnaire pour le martyre ne sont pas simplement basées sur les doctrines islamiques ou les idéologies islamiques. Ces aspirations visent à mettre toutes les personnes qui sont mortes au combat dans une « boîte de martyre » afin de les unir au sacré islamique. Les jeunes prétendent pouvoir ressentir la présence des martyrs grâce au chuchotement-fantôme. À partir d'ethnographies conduites en Iran, au Liban et en Irak, j’étudie la façon dont ces jeunes construisent la « boîte du martyre » et communiquent avec les chuchotements des fantômes. L'idée que ces jeunes révolutionnaires iraniens se font du martyre et du militantisme est façonnée dans un contexte de scepticisme face aux histoires qui critiquent les récits d'Etat et les relations mystiques avec les martyrs. Cet article montre que la jeunesse révolutionnaire en Iran est emblématique des situations dans lesquelles des individus impliqués dans des violences politiques se présentent comme artisans-créateurs de « savoirs ». Ils essayent de se rapprocher des morts et de rendre la mort compréhensible. Mon objectif est de mettre de côté le questionnement sur la connaissance elle-même afin d’établir comment c'est la possession de la connaissance qui contribue à l'apparition de la réalité.

My interlocutors often shared memories of the past war between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988), they recalled the fallen combatants and those killed in action as martyrs (šahid) and passionately shared stories of martyrdom. Interestingly, none of them had seen or directly experienced the Iran–Iraq war since they were born either during the war or after 1988 when the ceasefire, which was signed on 20 July 1987, was finally executed.1 My interlocutors spoke of martyrs as if they choose to reveal themselves to the living. The martyrs seemed like ghostly whisperers who revealed themselves to those in pursuit of martyrdom as the ultimate state of Grace for Shia Muslims. However, I rarely heard anything related to the Islamic doctrine and Prophetic sayings (ḥadith) from my interlocutors. They never called on any Quranic reasonings to explain their understanding and perception of martyrdom, although they referred to the war memories that veterans shared at commemorative events, orated in mosques, blogged and published. Sometimes my interlocutors explained themselves through quotes from martyrs’ biographies published by the propaganda apparatus of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It seemed that a different mode of knowing about martyrdom and knowledge transmission was at work among my interlocutors. This Iranian revolutionary youth were either wanna-be-militants, volunteer militants in training or battle-tested ones. Their act of knowing and their agentive capacity to know were situated in an affective relationship with ghostly whisperers (martyrs), notwithstanding Islam and religiosity. Their act of knowing was constituted by two distinct yet interlaced layers. I engage with these layers to show how militant subjectivities emerge in relation to what Veena Das (2020) called inordinate knowledge. The first layer of act knowing is knowing about the divine, cosmos and life at large through the ghostly whispers of martyrs (individual mystical relationship). The second layer refers to knowing against the cacophony of competing narratives (contested histories). These layers explain affective relationalities shaping loaded signifiers associated with political violence and how politically dominant groups and populists form affective bubbles to stand guard against historical-political contestations and tackle threats toward their reality.

Growing up in Iran and during my fieldworks, I noticed the term the revolutionary youth (ěavānān i inqilābi) always referred to the fervent pro-state men and women who joined Basij (a paramilitary organisation), demonstrated and mobilised in support of the state, believed in martyrdom and insisted on armed actions against the ‘enemy’. This term was especially politically loaded because it distinguished them from the other pious and religiously inclined Iranians who either opposed the state completely or called for reforms. Hence in the Iranian context, the label ‘revolutionary youth’ is not a generational reference to a certain age category and generation. It is the blanket label for those who support the Iranian state, its armed actions and its Islamist agenda. The reference to this label became further explicit when Khamenei, the highest religious/political authority in Iran, spoke on 7 February 2016 and used the phrase ‘the revolutionary youth’. He used the term in supporting the large mob of young, middle-aged and seasoned men, including veterans of the Iran–Iraq war, who attacked and ransacked the Saudi Embassy in Iran. Khamenei spoke in their support because the incumbent government arrested 100 people, and Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission was particularly interested in the arrest of Hassan Kordmihan (a leading revolutionary and Shia cleric) who coordinated the mob.2 Khamenei stated the Iranian media (journalists, newspapers and TV broadcasts) must avoid labelling the revolutionary youth as extremists. He insisted the revolutionary youth should be appreciated, and they should be allowed to ‘preserve the revolutionary zeal’.3

The revolutionary youth whom I encountered during my research come from every walk of life in Iran; some hailed from prosperous land-owning families, and some were destitute and held on to three jobs. Most of them were not financially burdened because they utilised their revolutionary capital to access jobs and secure incomes. The revolutionary youth are the demographic minority which holds a power position in Iran, and the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran is bolstered by their support. GAMAAN4 (Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran), in their recent survey report on Iranians’ attitude toward religion, confirms this.

The revolutionary youth who took part in my ethnographic journeys were born either in the early 1980s, when the Iran–Iraq war began or in the post-war era. Thus, they were either child during the war or members of the post-war generations. They have found opportunities to join armed actions since 2012, when the Islamic Republic of Iran began to deploy its forces and sponsored militias abroad to fight against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). I followed the strength of belief of revolutionary youth, which led them to leave their everyday comfort and join combats. Their actions encouraged me to observe how their knowledge of the past feeds their political and/or personal commitment to armed actions. I followed their knowledge and acts of knowing (processes of gaining knowledge, selecting what to know, what to filter out, and choosing which history to believe and which one to disbelieve) through participant-observation, such as walk-alongs, attending religious ceremonies and demonstrations, photo- elicitation, and organising book-reading circles and discussion groups.

The bridge of alterity between my interlocutors and me was obvious during my fieldwork since they knew I would return to the Netherlands where conflicts are mere TV spectacles, intellectual musings for the lily-white academia, and my life is luxurious compared with Iranians’ lives under economic sanctions by the USA and its European allies. However, political differences and the weight of alterity between us became less visible simply through the experience of reading together and discussing classical Farsi poetry or meanings and literary devices used in books. Hanging out brought ease, but I gained a linguistic resonance with them by learning the terms and phrases that they used while reading along with them every book and memoir that shaped their ideas of martyrdom. Those books were not only points of conversation and ‘interviews’ but also shaped the grammar of our ethnographic conversations. I learned that fervent supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran subscribe to the notion of the sameness of martyrs and readily place all fallen combatants in a ‘martyrdom box’, linking them to Islamic sacrality. Within their Islamic framework, they strip away the fallen combatants’ individuality and overall background, paving the way for the emergence of a character called a ‘martyr’ constructed through the notion of sameness. These fervent supporters insist on the sameness of martyrs and perpetuate the ‘martyrdom box’. Their ideas of martyrdom and their perceptions of martyrs are linked to their support of militancy and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Accordingly, this article explains this link to unpack what it means for the revolutionary youth to support a theocratic/authoritarian state and their militant subjectivities that emerge under these conditions.

I situate the emergence of militant subjectivities within the act of knowing martyrs. In other words, I explore how the revolutionary youth choose to know martyrs (what knowing entails for them) and how their act of knowing shapes political and everyday choices. Their forms of knowing in which martyrs reveal themselves differs from the phenomena described in When God Talks Back (Luhrmann 2012), which discusses how collective religious experiences cause some people to sense a divine presence. Instead, individuated affective relationships with martyrs allow the revolutionary youth to suggest that martyrs reveal themselves to them. I learned that most of my interlocutors regularly used passive constructions like ‘known’, ‘knowable’ and ‘becoming known’. They never articulated a view of themselves as active agents of any knowledge associated with the war and martyrs. I hardly ever heard my interlocutors say ‘I know’ (mīdānām), ‘I read’ (ḫāndām), ‘I heard’ (šanidam) or ‘we know’ (mīdānīm). Instead, they would say ‘it became known to me’ (dānistah am, ḫabardār šodām, quftah šod) or ‘this is known’ (midanand, maloom ast, mostahzar hastand), despite the grammatical oddity of such utterances in Farsi. The revolutionary youth did not vacate their agency nor assign it to the unseen (ġib), but they used grammatical properties of the passive voice to imply hearing the ghostly whispers of martyrs. I suggest their ability to hear was based on their affective relationships with martyrs and knowing them by way of the heart. These affective relationships and how agentive capacities operate through the grammatical properties of the passive voice remained elusive to me until a seasoned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) veteran explained them through Farsi poetry.

One day as we sat beside a fishpond in the mosque, I brought up his repeated use of the passive voice and my inability to grasp the idea of martyrs revealing themselves. He recited a couplet from Hafiz, a 14th-century poet highly respected in Iran: ‘We have seen the reflection of the beloved's beauty in the cup of wine/You who are ignorant from our drunken joys will never know it.’ For this seasoned veteran, ‘the beloved’ was a metaphoric reference to martyrs whose reflections are noticed when pious revolutionaries become intoxicated by worship, rituals and revolutionary zeal. I asked him further, ‘Do you see it? Do you seek it? Are you the doer (fāʿl)?’ He leaned a bit toward the pond where we sat during the interview, and I saw his reflection in the water as he smiled and asked, ‘So, did you see me, or did I let you see me?’ Through the poem, he shared his way of knowing and demonstrated how martyrs reveal themselves. Performatively, he explained how the so-called revolutionary youth in Iran utilise the passive voice to receive these revelations. The revolutionary youth agentively take on the passive voice to insist that martyrs reveal themselves. These revelations and modes of knowing remain beyond the Islamic doctrine, state's impositions, propaganda and approved narratives of martyrdom and martyrs.

I argue that the act of knowing unravels how militant subjectivities emerge because their emergence is dependent on processes in which the revolutionary youth configure their realities. Their reality is not just everyday living but a cosmology that enables them to cope with the excessive presence of death in Iranian politics. They need such a coping mechanism to make sense of martyrdom, tolerate the contested histories and finally justify their political commitments to the authoritarian/totalitarian state. The act of knowing dwells in contestations of knowledge, and my argument calls for a different anthropological commitment: to know the Other who supports violence, to know how perpetrators or populists choose to know and to investigate how the ‘grotesque’ sustains itself in politics. To conduct such an anthropological commitment, I do not treat the revolutionary youth as a compliant fellowship that blindly obeys the state, God and leaders (e.g. Golkar 2015; Ostovar 2018). Instead, I account for how they negotiate with authoritarianism and totalitarianism. They appropriate propaganda and find their ways of relating to martyrdom, militancy and the past. Accordingly, they encounter the dark side of knowledge where they cannot bear contested narratives of the past war. Following Das, I dwell on the dark side of knowledge to show militant subjectivities and how revolutionaries emerge from ‘between not knowing and shading your eyes from what you cannot help but know’ (2020: 36).

I organise my discussion into six parts. The first is an introduction to the historical contexts that shape the propagation of martyrdom and the so-called revolutionary youth. Additionally, the first section explains the politics of memory and cultural history of the Iran–Iraq war, which shape and feed the revolutionary youth. Then, the next sections conceptually elaborate on the complexities of knowing, the act of knowing and the affective textures of knowing. In the fifth section, I explore the act of knowing through encounters, narratives and stories from my fieldwork. Finally, I situate the act of knowing in an affective understanding of life and explain how some knowledge proceeds from an emotional grasp on reality rather than fact-checking or the historicity of truth.

The Revolutionary Youth and Remembrance in Iran

The 1979 Islamic revolution is the historical turning point that bestowed the adjective of revolutionary to fervent supporters of the Islamist agenda in Iran. The inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 is associated with the ‘charismatic’ religious leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, who had foreseen ‘exporting the Islamic revolution’ in his writings, speeches and interviews ever since the revolution gained momentum and further popular support in 1978 ( Hoveyda 2005; Khomeini 2005). Immediately after Khomeini died in 1989, his notion was picked up and expanded5 by his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei – currently the highest religious/political authority in Iran. Retaliating against the presumed threat of exporting revolution from Iran and possibly sparking a Shia uprising in Iraq, the Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein unilaterally annulled the Algiers Agreement, which he had signed with the deposed Iranian monarch Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in 1975. Saddam challenged Iran's southern water frontiers, and his subsequent military adventures turned into a protracted conflict lasting eight years. Retaliation for these attacks could not initially be pursued because the newly established Islamic Republic was in disarray and had not yet managed to organise itself as a full-fledged state.

The Islamic Republic did not trust the high-ranking military leadership because they had been in the service of the deposed monarch before the Revolution and served in the Imperial Armed Forces. The revolutionary courts had already prosecuted and sentenced many high-ranking army personnel to death by the time Ayatollah Khomeini was finally pressured to issue a general amnesty for the army on 2 July 1979 (Rose 1984). Therefore, the army was not deployed and residents of cities in the southwestern region of Khuzestan were left to defend themselves. The military and security vacuum in Iran was filled by the IRGC, which absorbed dedicated revolutionaries who had gradually acquired urban and guerrilla warfare skills while resisting the monarchy. However, the revolutionaries who were drawn to armed action – even when they were joined by armed borderland nomads and armed residents of cities near the Iraqi borders – were too few to fight Saddam's professionally trained forces. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a general call to arms, exhorting every able-bodied man to volunteer for combat. On 25 November 1979, Khomeini stated: ‘A country that has twenty million young men must have twenty million tufangdār [gunmen]’.6 Khomeini consequently proclaimed the institution of a paramilitary force called the Basij to bolster the IRGC with volunteers who joined the front lines. His pronouncement and call to arms were not a plea to defend the nation or Iran as a territory. Instead, they were based on religious discourses that shaped Khomeini's vision and Iranian Shi'ism. These discourses encouraged sacrifice in the name of God, shaping a path to salvation through the culture of martyrdom in Iran (Saramifar 2020; Varzi 2006).

The ideas of sacrifice, martyrdom and adoration of martyrs had taken root before the 1979 revolution in Iran by way of the ‘Karbala paradigm’ (Fischer 2003), which shapes Shias’ everyday life and sense of piety. Fischer elaborates how prominent figures in Shia history, such as Ali (son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad) and Hussain (grandson of the prophet Muhammad), have long inspired Iranians with a spirit of resistance against tyranny. Hussain and his fellowship were beheaded in Karbala (in today's Iraq) during a battle on 10 October 680 CE/Muharram 10, 61 AH. I have shown elsewhere (Saramifar 2019a) how his story inspires passion, sorrow and the desire for sacrifice among Iranian combatants because Hussain was abandoned on the eve of battle by many of those who had travelled with him. A popular proverb of the war era – ‘We shall not forsake him [Khomeini]’ – treated Khomeini as the metaphoric Hussain of the Islamic Revolution, and my interlocutors repeatedly told the stories of mothers who would encourage each eligible male family member to follow in the footsteps of another who had already been martyred in the war. The Iranian state claims today that 8,188 mothers offered two martyrs, 631 mothers offered three martyrs, 82 mothers offered four martyrs, 21 mothers offered five martyrs, six mothers offered six martyrs and mother offered seven martyrs during the war.7 The culture of martyrdom was not consolidated through ideology, religion and politics alone. Another major contributor was the stream of dead bodies which returned from the front lines. The war changed the meaning of death, making martyrdom the only form of salvation for dedicated revolutionaries.

The war ended with a ceasefire in 1989, but Khomeini announced that although the battle was over, the war would continue on the cultural fronts (Fazeli 2006). This heralded a new era in which the country became a hero- making factory occupied with collecting, publishing, circulating and propagating memories of martyrs and the war. The Islamic Republic of Iran began configuring mode of remembrance and commemorations of the Iran–Iraq war through religious and theological notions and its political imaginary. Roxanne Varzi (2006) understands this era as one of a visual regime, including depictions of martyrs and superabundant images of Khomeini in Iran. She suggests the Iranian state became an ‘image machine’ (2006: 23–43) that propagated the visual culture of martyrdom (Saramifar 2019b), becoming a capital-intensive memory machine that deemed the transmission of knowledge of the past its prime responsibility. Published memoirs, biographies of veterans and war narratives by fallen combatants were saturated with sacrality, allowing the post-war generation to know martyrs in the holiest possible colours. Huzh ḥonary inqilāb islāmi (the Artistry Centre of the Islamic Revolution, which I have elsewhere translated as the Art Academy) collects, records, organises, sometimes censors and publishes war memoirs penned by veterans or about martyrs. It also supports the organisation of memoir-reading seminars at universities, workshops on martyrs’ biographies in schools and memoir clubs at mosques that lend martyrs’ biographies to members.

The revolutionary youth of the post-war generation grew up under the influence of the capital-intensive memory machine of ḥuzh ḥonary inqilāb islāmi. In these memoirs, some found scripts of piety, a revolutionary existence and a path to salvation. Such memoirs, with their beautiful packaging, cover designs and luxurious, expensive print editions, have become popular gifts between sweethearts or newlywed couples whose highest aspiration is piety-for-martyrdom. This custom is often intensified and further practised when a revolutionary youth gets news that a young martyr of the post-war generation who fought in Iraq or Syria practised this habit in his everyday life. For example, Huěaěi, a well-known volunteer combatant beheaded by ISIS in Syria in 2017, made gifts of war memoirs to his wife when he was courting her. This practice and his affinity for war memoirs encouraged the genre's readership and increased the popularity of the books he had given his wife. It was as if Huěaěi had endorsed the memoirs and narratives and transmitted knowledge of the past from his afterlife to the present day. The revolutionary youth are also attentive to ḥuzh ḥonary inqilāb islāmi publications because Khamenei presents himself as an avid reader of these books and his approving notes appear as endorsements or blurbs on some back covers. Accordingly, reading, consuming and paying attention to war memoirs and biographies have become a political choice that aligns revolutionary youth with the religious leadership and the commander in chief, Khamenei. Therefore, I stress the revolutionary youth act of knowing by reading war memoirs and martyrs’ biographies, as well as following narratives propagated by the state, to highlight political attitudes and indicate the political positioning of the post-war generation vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.

Knowledge and the Complexities of Knowing

The quiet darkness of the graveyard and the summer night breeze invited a pleasant conversation, but I found the ambience spooky. I focused on his face, trying to ignore the rows of graves surrounding us. Hamdi lit another cigarette. I began to ask a question, but he immediately shushed me.

Shhhh . . . just listen to the silence. Look around and let the sameness and harmony soak in.

Complying, I gazed at the rows of graves marked with white marble or black granite and images of smiling, bearded men in khaki uniforms beneath Iranian flags. It was like every clichéd portrayal of martyrdom in the Islamic Republic of Iran I had seen on a TV documentary or news channel. I did see what Hamdi described as sameness, yet I could not soak it in. Impatient, I asked him, ‘Do you enjoy this sameness?’ He replied with an approving smile, ‘They are all martyrs. They lie here among us in the sameness, just as they stand in front of God in the sameness’. Baffled by his attitude, I scribbled away, recording his words in my notebook. Hamdi and I met from time to time in a martyrs’ graveyard/memorial site and together read biographies of martyrs from the Iran–Iraq war era. My larger aim was to understand his commitment to martyrdom and why he, a civilian, had volunteered to fight against ISIS. As we read the biographies of his favourite martyrs, I learned from the biographies why martyrs inspired him, a highly pious 29-year-old Muslim man brought up in a prosperous family from Dezful (a small southern province of Iran). Hamdi was an Arab-Iranian who wished to join the armed resistance against ISIS in Iraq, but IRGC initially rejected him, which he believed was due to the general ethnocentric attitudes against Arabs in Iran. He went to Iraq in search of opportunities to join Shia militias or work as a translator for the already deployed Iranian militias. Interestingly for him, another Arab-Iranian who was a mid-rank IRGC personnel deployed in Iraq acted as the intermediator, wrote a certificate of good character8 and a letter of recommendation, and introduced him to relevant connections. I was amazed and tried to figure out his reasoning. Then he suddenly added:

All martyrs I read about had to pass some kind of divine test (Imtiḥāni Illāḥī), and they showed persistence. So, I persisted. When they offered tears, souls, and blood and left a presence that whispers (zamzamah) to us [the revolutionary youth], how could I not persist? These are my last words for you, and don't listen to anything that enemies say: only martyrs, period (faqaṭ šuhada u bas)!

I learned from him how the memoirs published by the Iranian state, martyrs’ biographies or what Cavell (2012) called pale archived knowledge, transmit knowledge of pasts. Intriguing anthropological inquiries have followed how Iranians who oppose the Iranian state or are indifferent to its politics live with pale archived knowledge (Behrouzan 2016; Ehsani 2017; Gruber 2009; Nanquette 2013). However, I was intrigued by the affective relationships that pro-state Iranians and militants form with martyrs. In Iran, pale archived knowledge is transmitted through the enormous memory machine under the control of Iran's authoritarian/totalitarian state.9 Loud and ubiquitous, this memory machine suppresses any narrative that contests it. In other words, pale archived knowledge contests other forms of knowing pasts, organic knowledge and memories. This contestation forces the revolutionary youth to choose one over another and make an explicit political choice whose narrative they want to ‘believe’. In other words, they decide which reality they wish to live in. The sheer force, burden and weight of the responsibility they presume for themselves infuses their act of knowing with affective textures. Putting it differently, the war and violence that produced a multitude of dead bodies, martyrs and displaced families are turned into a divine burden that emotionally inspires the revolutionary youth and affectively connects them to martyrs of the Iran–Iraq war. Consequently, they choose their affective relationship with martyrs and how the memory machine narrates them even though the memory machine, propaganda and archived knowledge are sometimes challenged through leaked documents and surprising testimonies of veterans in Iran.

Sometimes, new debates among Iranian statesmen who held high-ranking positions during the Iran–Iraq war are sparked over social media. Farsi news broadcasts from abroad (Alikhah 2007) present leaked documents and increasingly disenchanted veterans reveal information through their testimonies. In the words of Das (2020), there is usually a ‘long period of silence and secrecy’ which divides victims and celebrates heroes, but somehow the ‘unstable and intolerable knowledge’ appears and breaks the silence. The silence is eventually shattered, unstable knowledge is let loose and the archived knowledge is contested, but this does not necessarily result in the liberation of thought, reflexivity or the refusal of totalitarianism. In Iran, contestations against archived knowledge have produced a deafening cacophony. The exposed lies, fabricated memories and unspoken pains which I discuss in the next sections can crack the revolutionary youth's beliefs and ideas of the past, but the revolutionary youth shield themselves through the comfort of homogeneity, taking refuge in the archived knowledge and adoring martyrs as larger-than-life heroes. They ignore contestations and instead craft a different act of knowing by relating to martyrs affectively and imposing sameness on them. They insist on ghostly whispers to justify their belief in the memory machine. However, they insist the whispers emerge from affective relationships that inform their political commitments to martyrdom, militancy and the Iranian state. I learned that although the revolutionary youth in my stories find inspiration in the memory machine, they cannot fully cope with the incessant memories and contestations flooding towards them. They decidedly label narratives that contest the memory machine as ‘Western/American/anti-regime and biased’. Politically, they support the memory machine, yet they do not fully comply with the absorption of its transmitted knowledge of the past.

The memory machine pushes its own ‘appropriate’ version of the past, their rationale and political reasoning, encouraging the revolutionary youth to apply intellectual precepts to martyrs’ lives10 and engage with the martyrs’ religious depth. The revolutionary youth apply ‘knowing without knowing’ (Sontag 1977: 185), meaning that they genuinely do not engage with the politics of meanings embedded in martyrdom. Their compliance with the memory machine accords not with given instructions but with their modes of knowing. For instance, in militia-affiliated blogs and social media accounts, terms like šahidi lukchirī (‘posh martyr’) and šahidi ḫošgil (‘pretty martyr’) are popularly used for certain volunteer combatants who were handsome, worked as fashion models or declined to study abroad in favour of enlisting for combat. These ‘posh martyrs’ are appreciated by the revolutionary youth because of their ‘poster-worthy’ appearance and ‘heroic’ stories of choosing combat over a comfortable life in Europe. The revolutionary youth show disinterest in martyrs’ religiosity and political commitment to the Iranian state. They are more inclined to put these fallen combatants into a ‘martyrdom box’, adore them as fallen ones, make heroes out of them and project their desires onto them, instead of engaging with the rationale and political reasoning of the martyrs, as dictated by the memory machine. The memory machine and Iran's religious authority consider the revolutionary youth's engagement with martyrs reductive because it conflicts with the political spirituality that the memory machine strives for.

The Act of Knowing

Above, I showed individuals craft acts of knowing through Hamdi's story and discrepancies between what the revolutionary youth choose to know and what the memory machine pushes them to know. In other words, individuals render transmitted knowledge of pasts, memories and histories as known and admit the ‘known’ into their realities. Knowledge becomes real through the act of knowing. In other words, knowledge does not only contain what is known but also the question of how ‘what is known’ becomes real, and how the ways that individuals have chosen to know (acts of knowing) contribute to the emergence of reality. Such thoughts inspire my exploration of how the act of knowing and social actors agentively validate knowledge and mediate reality. I suggest an anthropology of knowledge should proceed with an examination of knowledge through the act of knowing and demonstrate how social actors become the agents of knowing rather than presuming they receive and consume any knowledge passively.

When knowledge and the act of knowing are conflated, insufficient attention is devoted to how individuals allow knowledge to become known and real to them. Veena Das's approach to knowledge (1996; also see Das 2020, 2021) follows how the act of knowing renders a violent past ‘known’ through sociality and communal expressions of suffering. Her approach shapes my argument because of her focus on the knowledge of the violent past and the ways it becomes the burden of individuals and survivors. Das, in Critical Events (1996), locates modes of knowledge of past atrocities among the Sikh community of Punjab and their narratives of police brutality. She demonstrates how the community becomes ‘the conduit through which the individual experience of having been violated can be seen as the experience of the whole community’ (1996: 131; emphasis original). Das (2020) furthermore addresses the knowledge of violent pasts by calling it the ‘inordinate knowledge’ and explains how knowledge about the atrocities of the India–Pakistan partition of 1947 ‘becomes weighty with consequences for those who are in possession of knowledge’ (2020: 148). Drawing on these ideas, I accordingly define an inordinate knowledge as something which emanates excess, not in the sense of spilling over, engorgement and tumescence but entailing complex strategies of disposal, inexpression, oblivion and political neglect. Putting it simply, an inordinate knowledge is all that is known but rendered mute because it is just too much to bear, know or feel.

Das (2020) follows how the knowledge of burdensome, violent pasts hangs over communities and enters the realm of the social, and how such knowledge remains only partially articulated, being instead expressed through crude metaphors, sarcasm and humour. I return to Das's process to scrutinise the individuated processes that filter, receive and validate an inordinate knowledge before it enters the realm of the social and encourages communal solidarities. To do so, I dismantle encounters with an inordinate knowledge to find out how social actors become agents who admit this knowledge into their reality and then trace its subsequent entrance into the realm of the social. In other words, my exploration of acts of knowing follows mechanisms that individuals craft in order to admit an inordinate knowledge into their realities and accordingly render the burden of the past bearable.

The Texturality of Knowledge

Das (2020: 18) explains that an inordinate knowledge gains texture and becomes textural through sociocultural processes in which social actors overcome it – that is, it is not due to any intrinsic set-up. In other words, texturality of knowledge and the sociality of knowing make it possible for social actors to live with unresolved collective trauma, an excess, a chronic wound and a painfully emptied- out cosmos. The textural quality arises from the way inordinate knowledge is received, assessed, articulated and co-opted so that it can be lived with and overcome. The textures of inordinate knowledge in Iran are shaped by revolutionary youth's affective relationships with martyrs and how they deal with inordinate knowledge. The revolutionary youth of my stories affectively relate to textures of knowledge of the violent past and render them known ‘if it feels right’. Lauren Berlant describes affective relating to the burden of the past as ‘social relation[s] involving attachments that organise the present’ (2011: 14). I describe affect as relational dynamics between evolving bodies in a setting and see affect as emerging through the relational dynamics. Affect permeates among social actors and stimulates contingencies, while social actors struggle to know and overcome the burden of the past by enactments of inordinate knowledge, socially and individually.

The growing oeuvre of anthropology of affect (Mazzarella 2017; Pellegrini and Paur 2009) mostly builds on a Deleuzian reading of Baruch Spinoza's notion of affect. Spinoza's (1996) and Gilles Deleuze's (1988) definitions of affect follow the ways in which affecting/being affected bring about individuation through open processes of relational dynamics and the overcoming of the burdens of everyday life. It thus presents a radically relational and dynamic understanding of individuals and their affective encounters. Spinozist and Deleuzian readings of affect, individual and individuation open up a larger space for locating agency and agentive social enactments. Spinoza provides this larger space by addressing the ‘individual’ in terms of a ‘finite mode’ which is numerously manifested through relations, which are either affecting or affected (1996: 13). Richard Manning (2009) explains the Spinozist approach to individuation through affect and affectivity. She highlights affect as the arena of individuation where the numerous manifestations and multiplicity turn individuals into situated capacities that multiply, move and become moved from one body to another. She locates the affective in processes that ‘register the environmental conditions in a series of relational cross-currents.’ Accordingly, the affective trajectory makes it possible to trace textures, the sociality of affect, techniques of subtle resistance and bodies’ capacity to move and be moved upon. Owing to the conceptual capacity of affect theory, I trace how the act of knowing is enacted through an affective relating that reticulates conceptual bodies of martyrs (memories, narrative, images) as well as material bodies of martyrs (remains, corpses, memorial sites) in a network of relational dynamics and situates the revolutionary youth in it.

Disbelieving History and Affective Textures of Knowing

I return to my conversations with Hamdi (among other interlocutors) to portray how revolutionary youth craft the act of knowing, and to elaborate on the affective textures that shape the given act. Our conversations situate the revolutionary youth in the political climate and controversies around the burial of 175 martyrs whose remains were found more than thirty years after the end of the war. The burial ceremony on 15 June 2015 took place during my fieldwork, and Hamdi was filled with emotions. We found ourselves in Tehran, Iran's capital, together with a large number of Iranians participating in the burial ceremony. People walked alongside coffins shrouded with Iranian flags and lamented the tribulations of the martyrs, celebrating their memory. Wiping back tears while keeping his balance among men and women, Hamdi said:

Martyrs are like those stars dead long ago in galaxies, dead many years ago, and we were blind to their passing away. Their death is not a fall, but the birth of light and all of them are the same light shining on us.

Hamdi and his friends were excited. They mentioned that they had not expected so many Iranians to participate, or to give such a warm reception to the martyrs. The political climate, with its pro-regime groups, revolutionaries, Islamists and others with various political inclinations, was contentious and oppressive due to inflation, rampant corruption and protests by teachers and factory workers that had subsequently met with suppression by the state. Hamdi and his friends had assumed the usual people would participate in the burial ceremony: pro- regime crowds, parliamentarians, school students forced to attend, civil servants protecting their reputation, IRGC personnel, members of religious associations, elderly people wanting to socialise, conscripted soldiers, those in search of free food, and veterans’ families. Hamdi and others repeatedly mentioned they were surprised by the large numbers of Iranians of every type, political orientation and religious belief who came to the streets. They believed the 175 martyrs added a new twist to the inordinate knowledge and stream of dead bodies that Iranians had become used to:11 these martyred combatants’ hands had been tied before they were buried alive in a mass grave. Not simply ‘killed in action’, the men were humiliated by being bound and defenceless, killed brutally by burial alive, and humiliated again in death, left lying in a common pit. The revolutionary youth stressed the ‘extensive’ public participation in the ceremony highlighted the emotional gravity of the story, which seemed bigger than any political or religious difference, as Iranians mourned together. The dead bodies interfered with democratic processes, protests and strikes. Strikes were ebbing in 2015, compared with 2014 when at least three protests or strikes erupted every two hours somewhere in Iran.12 The memory machine utilised dead bodies to silence and dampen quarrels, objections and protests in Iran and this was far more effective than the mighty disciplinary forces and riot police.

Three years later, however, an argument on Twitter that pitted the controversial Iranian war historian Jafar Shira'li-nia against Mohsen Rezaee, the retired commander of IRGC put the brutal killing of those 175 martyrs into a new perspective. New information about the military operation in which the combatants were killed undermined the culture of martyrdom and the political commitment to martyrs, casting a shadow of doubt over the memory machine. Apparently, the combatants had been killed in a deceptive operation, meaning a large number of forces had been sent to their death with no clear combat mandate or military goal except to maintain the theatre or façade of war. Mohsen Rezaee and other military commanders at that time had decided to deceive the enemy by organising a ‘fake’ operation to distract Iraq from certain other military activities. The deception occurred at the expense of combatants who actually had to sacrifice themselves without any idea that they had joined in a farce and offered up their lives for a theatrical bloodbath.

Some of my interlocutors who had passionately lamented and mourned the killing of the 175 fallen combatants felt cheated, realising their heroes had been killed in a farce and not in ‘true’ combat. A few of them asked, ‘Were these men really martyrs?’ or voiced frustration: ‘175 men just died and suffered for no reason except keeping up with the farce . . . Does it mean these 175 men also stand alongside every other martyr? Do they?’ A new crack had appeared in their reality because the signifier (martyr) and the signification (martyrdom) did not match up. Regardless, most of my interlocutors insisted the war was beyond ‘simple social media disputes’, telling others, ‘Don't believe what you hear’ and ‘these are just political issues, and you should refer to your dīl [heart]’. They repeatedly stated that ‘we don't want to know, and we know enough. These are people of nūr o dard [light and suffering]. We have felt these martyrs in our dīls [hearts]’. Hamdi, who stood next to me during these conversations, smiled and said, ‘I told you; all martyrs are of the same kind for us.’ Despite all their questions and disappointments, the revolutionary youth disregarded inconsistencies. The past, its burden and the stream of dead bodies were silenced by labelling every corpse a martyr, consuming the culture of martyrdom and smearing sacrality over every fallen combatant to forget that wars kill and cause suffering. A few days after the controversy, Amir, the IRGC drill sergeant who had trained Hamdi and his peers, returned fresh from combat zones in Syria. As Amir explained it:

forget everything about religion and politics. Just imagine: 175 men were tied up, executed, and buried together. Can you think of 175 men tied up like sacrificial animals and killed in one go? It is simply an injustice. Just saying it feels like twisting a knife in my gut, and that feeling makes me see them as martyrs . . . forget history . . . see, listen, and sense with your heart; let go of your questions here.

Amir stressed his feelings and some form of mystical seeing, listening and sensing to render the fallen combatants real, place them in the martyrdom box, lament their suffering and ease the burden of the past and its inordinate knowledge. I told him about the frustrations of Iranians who had come to see things differently and how they were now rethinking the question of who is a martyr. He waved off their concerns as episodic – a ‘political fever’. I probed Amir to learn whom he believes is a martyr. He briefly explained that martyrs reveal themselves and lead believers to acknowledge their martyrdom, saying ‘any other way is a misrecognition of martyrs’. This process of ‘being led’ was the revolutionary youth's ‘embracing unreason’ (van der Port 1998: 25) using an affective communion with the dead and martyrs. The pale/archived knowledge, history, documents and facts were irrelevant to these conversations: as the revolutionary youth stressed, martyrs are felt and sensed. The act of knowing martyrs and validating a fallen combatant as a martyr occurred in an affective bubble that produced sameness, consolidating the martyrdom label. In other words, the revolutionary youth form a protective translucent emotional layer which allows them to make sense of their feelings individually and also share them collectively. I call this layer an affective bubble where revolutionary imaginaries are linked. Within the bubble, the revolutionary youth protect themselves from the majority who oppose the Islamic Republic and refuse ‘revolutionary values’ such as martyrdom. ‘Being led’ and forming the affective bubble are indulgences in unreason, irrational exuberance and producing sameness when facing trauma, loss and an oppressive state that has co-opted the religion. Initially, I presumed the affective bubble was constructed and shaped through state propaganda, the memory machine's incessant workings and living with a religious mindset. However, meeting Arsalan confirmed that the affective bubble was a way to tune out controversies and the memory machine and craft a mode of dealing with inordinate knowledge and the burden of the past.

Arsalan, aged 28, was a combatant who surrendered his clerical turban and left the seminary to become a soldier in the IRGC. He shared an interesting experience that explained how revolutionary youth tune out the incessant narratives spewed by the memory machine. His experience was about a lesser-known controversy around the biography of the highly celebrated martyr Hemmat. The biography was published without his family's authorisation; nonetheless it was approved by the state. The unauthorised biography portrays Hemmat as someone who found his family and children burdensome – a hindrance to salvation – and suggests he was a negligent father distracted by martyrdom; further, his martyrdom was also questionable because of his socialist/communist views.13 Arsalan gave up on martyrs and martyrdom because he was confounded after reading the book and realising the impossibility of knowing the past in the cacophony of narratives published in Iran. He explained: ‘Hemmat was not the same martyr in my mind anymore’. He had declared martyrdom ‘too difficult to understand’ and left the seminary till one day he dreamed Hemmat gave him a green IRGC uniform and showed him the way to Jerusalem. Arsalan stressed how he learned this: ‘I realised Hemmat was telling me to join the martyrs to understand martyrdom . . . to know means to feel . . . to know means holding your heart open and hoping that martyrs let you feel them’.

We visited Hemmat's memorial site, where Arsalan continued his poetic description until a stray cat interrupted us, asking for attention. I moved toward the cat to pet and feed it, but Arsalan stopped me. ‘Don't you learn anything from our conversation? Let it come to you’, he said assertively. ‘Don't chase it; let life happen to you.’ Extrapolating from his relationship and affective communion with martyrs to craft a lifestyle, Arsalan instructed me not to chase life but rather turn myself into an ‘open system’ (Pellegrini and Paur 2009) interacting with the world. Arsalan, Hamdi and the vast majority of volunteer combatants formed an Islamic cosmology via an act of knowing that exceeded the memory machine. They appeared to comply with the memory machine, since they approved of notions of martyrdom, Shia resistance and Islamic revolution. However, they subtly restrained themselves from full compliance by refusing the Iranian state's rationale of martyrdom and narratives of the memory machine that portray martyrs as politically informed loyalists. Instead, the revolutionary youth denied the cacophony of narratives to affectively relate to martyrs and evaluate martyrdom only within the landscape of feelings rather than the state-induced Islamist rationality.

The act of knowing was embedded in an affectively textured relationship with the past and martyrs. They desperately strove to acknowledge martyrs and martyrdom, dismissing all reasoning, historical investigations, facts and representations, and negotiations with the state's pronouncements and propaganda, including all the narratives and histories the memory machine pushed towards them. The revolutionary youth were hesitant to comply with the memory machine blindly. Therefore, they devised a different method to know and validate martyrs – a method incorporating affective wording, relation and the meaning-making system imposed on them. Accordingly, their affective mode of relating and negotiating with the memory machine constituted their revolutionary subjectivities and political commitment to martyrdom through ‘a play of recursive impressions that shape the horizon of feelings’ (Schaefer 2019: 32; emphasis original).

Acts of Knowing as Acts of Affect

In this article, I have traced how inordinate knowledge in Iran among the revolutionary youth and pro-regime volunteer combatants gains what my interlocutors call wūěūd (presence/ontic), coming to exist and taking quiddity. Inordinate knowledge in Iran operates through two distinctive but interlaced layers. The first layer entails the ghostly whispers that reveal martyrs to the revolutionary youth, who claim these whispers are inexpressive and fall beyond the knowledge that the memory machine spews. The whispers are enchantments to disbelieve history based on research and investigations and to ignore critical voices that interrogate the state's narrative. The ghostly whispers make possible a framework through which the living (the revolutionary youth) and the dead (the martyrs) co-constitute each other. The second layer entails the dark side of knowledge, which emerges from the cacophony of competing narratives and the rationale propagated by the state. The revolutionary youth simply mute the cacophony and withdraw into their affective bubbles. I demonstrated the interlaced connection between the two layers by chasing up the individuated operations (acts of knowing) of the revolutionary youth who desire martyrdom. Their individuated processes and acts of knowing render the knowledge of past events affectively real, religiously existing and politically valid enough to join armed resistance. I do not write to suggest that their desires for martyrdom indicate that the propaganda apparatus has succeeded in inducing blind obedience among the post-war generations in Iran, nor do I applaud the war machinery or merely demystify the recruitment process.

I explain my encounters to highlight how seemingly complying with Islamists, being pro-state and singing along with the memory machine in Iran do not compel indoctrination, obedience or fellowship among extremists. The stories of the revolutionary youth show how inordinate knowledge operates through a fuzzy sense of knowing that permits revolutionary youth to form an affective bubble and withstand the burden of the past. The bubble protects them from multitudinous narratives, controversies over truth, fact-checking history and giving up on the Islamic Republic, which presumably offers protection, order and national security. One cannot argue with the experiential ignorance, zeal, fervent support, passion and feelings, especially with deeply personal emotional ones which bring about prejudice. Near the end of my fieldwork, when I could ask provocative questions, I asked, ‘How can you keep believing in the Islamic Republic when it offers no reliable narrative about the past?’ I was repeatedly told, ‘No state is flawless, and this is what we've got’; ‘Look at the Americans and their elections’; or ‘This is still better than ISIS, the monarchists or Americans’. The political climate of West Asia as a whole and international politics at large shaped my interlocutors’ individual choices and the way they crafted cosmologies that informed their political positioning against the Islamic Republic and the world order. Martyrs, martyrdom and affective communion with them mediated these processes, not because they are components of their cosmologies but because they render the inordinate knowledge of the past and reality of living with the stream of dead bodies, beheaded corpses and broken families bearable. Their stories demonstrate that the sociality of inordinate knowledge is insufficient for understanding socialisation in violence and the perpetuation of conflicts. Instead, the act of knowing and how knowledge about violent pasts is recognised individually offer a more precise portrayal of violence and a roadmap to break the cycle of violence.

Acknowledgement

This article would not have come together without reviewers’ helpful comments and editors’ attention. I especially thank Sana Chavoshian, Pooyan Tamimi Arab and TOI (The Other Islamists) team, which activated my thoughts during our meetings.

Notes

1

See ‘Security Council Resolution 598: the Iraq-Islamic Republic of Iran’ https://peacemaker.un.org/iraqiran-resolution598 (accessed 31 August 2020).

3

https://hawzahnews.com/x9VLd (accessed 29 August 2021).

4

GAMAAN stands for the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran. The surveys and research conducted by GAMAAN are mostly organised by Pooyan Tamimi Arab and Ammar Maleki. Their reports are published in https://www.gamaan.org (accessed 21 September 2022).

6

http://www.imam-khomeini.ir/fa/n25082 (accessed 7 August 2020).

7

https://www.iribnews.ir/008ech (accessed 24 December 2020). Some may argue against the accuracy of the number due to its propagation through the state-sponsored platforms. Regardless, the revolutionary youth seem to treat these numbers as ‘true’. I am interested in how such numbers impact the revolutionary youth's perceptions of martyrdom and the state, so fact-checking the numbers is not relevant for my argument here.

8

All volunteer combatants require two grantors who testify to their good character and sign the enrolment forms for the volunteers. Often the enrolment officers call the signatories for verifications, in front of the volunteers. I was told some volunteers were jailed when it was revealed the signatures were fake, signatories were fraudulent or some kind of suspicion of sabotage was raised.

9

The term totalitarian may well apply to the Iranian state if we consider Mussolini's definition of the concept. He wrote ‘Fascism affirms the state as the true reality of the individual. It is for the only freedom which can seriously be considered . . . because for the Fascist everything is in the state, and outside of the state nothing legal or spiritual can exist or still less be of value. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian’.

10

http://mehrnews.com/xKpdr (accessed 20 January 2020).

11

https://www.mizanonline.com/002dgR (accessed 20 December 2020).

12

https://news.mojahedin.org/i/news/152678 (accessed 31 January 2022).

13

https://www.irna.ir/news/81421593/ (accessed 8 January 2021).

References

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Saramifar, Y. 2019b. ‘The pain of others: framing war photography in Iran’, Ethnos 84: 480507.

  • Saramifar, Y. 2020. ‘Circling around the really Real in Iran’, Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 2020 (88): 7688.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schaefer, D. 2019. The evolution of affect theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Sontag, S. 1977. On photography. New York: Picador.

  • Spinoza, B. 1996. Ethics, E. Curley (trans.). New York: Penguin Books.

  • van der Port, M. 1998. Gipsies, wars and other instances of the wild: civilization and its discontents in a Serbian town. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

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Contributor Notes

Younes Saramifar is an Assistant Professor of inhumanities in the Faculty of Humanities, VU Amsterdam. He studies hope and political violence beyond the ideological register in the Middle East. He is currently a Niels Stensen fellow at Aarhus Universiteit.

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  • Abrahamian, E. 1982. Iran between two revolutions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Alikhah, F. 2007. The politics of satellite television in Iran. London: Routledge.

  • Behrouzan, O. 2016. Prozak diaries: psychiatry and generational memories in Iran. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Berlant, L. 2011. Cruel optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Cavell, S. 2012. The touch of words, W. Day and V. Krebs (eds.), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 81-98

  • Das, V. 1996. Critical events: an anthropological perspective on contemporary India. London: Oxford University Press.

  • Das, V. 2020. Textures of the ordinary: doing anthropology after Wittgenstein. New York: Fordham University Press.

  • Deleuze, G. 1988. Spinoza: practical philosophy, R. Hurley (trans.). San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.

  • Ehsani, K. 2017. ‘War and resentment: critical reflections on the legacies of the Iran–Iraq war’, Middle East Critique 26: 524.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fazeli, N. 2006. Politics of culture in Iran. London: Routledge.

  • Fischer, M. M. J. 2003. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

  • Gruber, C. 2009. Mediating conflict: Iranian posters of Iran–Iraq war, in J. Anderson (ed.), Crossing cultures: conflict migration and convergence. The proceedings of the 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art, Carlton, Victoria, 684689.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hoveyda, F. 2005. The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian mythology and Islamic revolution. Westport, CT: Praeger.

  • Khomeini, R. 2005. Tebian. Vol. 6. Tehran: The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's works.

  • Luhrmann, T. 2012. When God talks back: understanding the American Evangelical relationship with God. New York: Alfred E. Knopf.

  • Manning, R. Spinoza, Thoughtful Teleology, and the Causal Significance of Content In Olli Koistinen & J. I. Biro (eds.), Spinoza: Metaphysical Themes. Oxford University Press. pp. 182209 (2002)

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazzarella, W. 2017. ‘Sense out of sense: notes on the affect/ethics impasse’, Cultural Anthropology 32: 199208.

  • Nanquette, L. 2013. ‘An Iranian woman's memoir on the Iran–Iraq war: the production and reception of Da’, Iranian Studies 45: 943957.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pellegrini, A. and J. Paur 2009. ‘Affect’, Social Text 27: 3538.

  • Rose, G. F. 1984. ‘The post-revolutionary purge of Iran's armed forces: a revisionist assessment’, Iranian Studies 17: 153194.

  • Ostovar, A. 2018. Vanguard of the Imam. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.

  • Saeid, G. 2015. Captive Society: the Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Saramifar, Y. 2019a. ‘Emotions of felt memories: looking for interplay of emotions and histories in Iranian political consciousness since Iran–Iraq war (1980–1988)’, Anthropology of Consciousness 30: 132151.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Saramifar, Y. 2019b. ‘The pain of others: framing war photography in Iran’, Ethnos 84: 480507.

  • Saramifar, Y. 2020. ‘Circling around the really Real in Iran’, Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 2020 (88): 7688.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schaefer, D. 2019. The evolution of affect theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Sontag, S. 1977. On photography. New York: Picador.

  • Spinoza, B. 1996. Ethics, E. Curley (trans.). New York: Penguin Books.

  • van der Port, M. 1998. Gipsies, wars and other instances of the wild: civilization and its discontents in a Serbian town. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Varzi, R. 2006. Warring souls: youth media, and martyrdom in post-revolution Iran. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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