Synopses & Reviews
With the first Fulbright grant for research in Iran to be awarded since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Roxanne Varzi returned to the country her family left before the Iran-Iraq war. Drawing on ethnographic research she conducted in Tehran between 1991 and 2000, she provides an eloquent account of the beliefs and experiences of young, middle-class, urban Iranians. As the first generation to have come of age entirely in the period since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran, twenty-something Iranians comprise a vital index of the success of the nationandrsquo;s Islamic Revolution. Varzi describes how, since 1979, the Iranian state has attempted to produce and enforce an Islamic public sphere by governing behavior and by manipulating imagesandmdash;particularly images related to religious martyrdom and the bloody war with Iraq during the 1980sandmdash;through films, murals, and television shows. Yet many of the young Iranians Varzi studied quietly resist the governmentandrsquo;s conflation of religious faith and political identity.
Highlighting trends that belie the governmentandrsquo;s claim that Islamic values have taken holdandmdash;including rising rates of suicide, drug use, and sex outside of marriageandmdash;Varzi argues that by concentrating on images and the performance of proper behavior, the governmentandrsquo;s campaign to produce model Islamic citizens has affected only the appearance of religious orthodoxy, and that the strictly religious public sphere is partly a mirage masking a profound crisis of faith among many Iranians. Warring Souls is a powerful account of contemporary Iran made more vivid by Varziandrsquo;s inclusion of excerpts from the diaries she maintained during her research and from journal entries written by Iranian university students with whom she formed a study group.
andldquo;A lovely piece of writing, Warring Souls is one of the first credible accounts of secular Iranians in their twenties, the post-Revolution generation.andrdquo;andmdash;Michael M. J. Fischer, author of Mute Dreams, Blind Owls, and Dispersed Knowledges: Persian Poesis in the Transnational Circuitry
andldquo;Warring Souls is an outstanding and nuanced addition to the literature on contemporary Iranian culture, media, and society.andrdquo;andmdash;Hamid Naficy, author of An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking
andldquo;Inside and outside the pulse of war in Iran, close up and far away, Roxanne Varzi weaves her spell; two parts anthropology, one part poetry and film theory, three parts a soaring imagination and a big heart. How could you not reach out for a book which situates itself at the intersection of religion, vision, and power, asking whether the individual ultimately has the power to turn the image off? A tour de force.andrdquo;andmdash;Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
andldquo;[Warring Souls] is an excellent ethnographic study and worth recommending for academics as well as laymen interested in post-revolutionary Iranian society, in general, and Iranian youth, in particular.andrdquo;
andldquo;[T]he book is successful as a portrayal of turn-of-the-century Iranian culture. The authorandrsquo;s extension of her studies from urban, secular, middle-class youth to veterans of the Iraq war, the testimonials of martyrs, and films and visual images, as well as to literature and intellectual traditions, give this book both a breadth and a depth not matched by other accounts of contemporary Iran. How to study culture on a national scale, and present the results effectively, have long bedeviled anthropologists. Hence, to have done this so well is no small achievement.andrdquo;
andldquo;Varziandrsquo;s analysis of Iranian culture and creative application of Western theories bring to the fore mystical, mythological, historical, and sociological characters of Iranian culture and psyche. Her engaging language weaves the dispersed narratives of her subjects with diverse Persian cultural designs, psycho-historical elements, and literary traits into a sophisticated cultural portrait.andrdquo;
andldquo;Warring Souls is the most interesting book analysing youth cultures in post-revolution Iran that I have read. . . . [It] is a tour de force that presents novel theoretical perspectives regarding the influence of the Islamic revolution, the Iranandndash;Iraq War and the media (especially visual media) on todayandrsquo;s urban middle-class youthandrsquo;s culture, lifestyle and future prospects. . . . Warring Souls is an outstanding addition to the anthropological literature on Iranian youth in a schizophrenic age with lost hopes and paradoxical signals from the leaders of society.andrdquo;
Drawing on ethnographic research conducted by the author in Tehran between 1991 and 2000, this book provides an account of the beliefs and experiences of young, middle-class, urban Iranians.
An eloquent ethnographic account of the beliefs and experiences of young, middle-class, urban Iranians who have grown up in the period since Iran?s 1979 Islamic revolution
An ethnography of secular youth culture in Tehran and its resistance to post-Revolutionary Islamicist politics.
About the Author
“Warring Souls is an outstanding and nuanced addition to the literature on contemporary Iranian culture, media, and society.”—Hamid Naficy, author of An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking“A lovely piece of writing, Warring Souls is one of the first credible accounts of secular Iranians in their twenties, the post-Revolution generation.”—Michael M. J. Fischer, author of Mute Dreams, Blind Owls, and Dispersed Knowledges: Persian Poesis in the Transnational Circuitry“Inside and outside the pulse of war in Iran, close up and far away, Roxanne Varzi weaves her spell; two parts anthropology, one part poetry and film theory, three parts a soaring imagination and a big heart. How could you not reach out for a book which situates itself at the intersection of religion, vision, and power, asking whether the individual ultimately has the power to turn the image off? A tour de force.”—Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Journey xiii
Introduction. Divination: An Archeology of the Unknown 1
1. The Image and the Hidden Master 23
2. Mystic States: Martyrdom and the Making of the Islamic Republic 44
3. Shooting Soldiers, Shooting Film: The Cinema of the Iranian Sacred Defense 76
4. Visionary States: Inhabiting the City, Inhabiting the Mind 106
5. Shifting Subjects: Public Law and Private Selves 131
6. Majnun's Mask: Sex, Suicide, and Semiotic Malfunctioning 155
7. The Ghost in the Machine: (Just War?) Remainders and Reminders of War 175
8. Reforming Religious Identity in Post-Khatami Iran 194
Conclusion. Mehdi's Climb 209
Works Cited 263