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Conceptualizing Iranian Anthropology

Conceptualizing Iranian Anthropology: Past and Present Perspectives

Edited by Shahnaz R. Nadjmabadi
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Conceptualizing Iranian Anthropology
    Book Description:

    During recent years, attempts have been made to move beyond the Eurocentric perspective that characterized the social sciences, especially anthropology, for over 150 years. A debate on the "anthropology of anthropology" was needed, one that would consider other forms of knowledge, modalities of writing, and political and intellectual practices. This volume undertakes that challenge: it is the result of discussions held at the first organized encounter between Iranian, American, and European anthropologists since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is considered an important first step in overcoming the dichotomy between "peripheral anthropologies" versus "central anthropologies." The contributors examine, from a critical perspective, the historical, cultural, and political field in which anthropological research emerged in Iran at the beginning of the twentieth century and in which it continues to develop today.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-795-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Shahnaz R. Nadjmabadi

    These days, when anthropological understanding is praised as ‘a modern form of expert knowledge’ (Restrepo and Escobar 2005), it is worth asking how far this assertion is valid at an international level and what the state of affairs is regarding the quality of this knowledge produced by the world’s various national anthropological traditions. In their article entitled ‘Other Anthropologies and Anthropologies Otherwise’, Restrepo and Escobar argue that a discipline characterized by plurality and diversity requires thinking within multiple spaces and in a broader frame – that of a ‘world anthropologies’: ‘rather than assuming that there is a privileged position from...

  4. PART I From Folklore to Anthropology:: The Passage

    • CHAPTER 1 The Contribution of Foreign Anthropologists to Iranology
      (pp. 19-29)
      Ali A. Bulookbashi

      The travel accounts of European travellers such as Adam Olearius (1603–1671), Jean Baptist Tavernier (1605–1689) and Jean Chardin (1643–1713), about characteristic manifestations of Iranian culture and ways of life in the seventeenth century, were what first attracted the attention of Europeans to this country.

      At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Iran aroused particular interest among the two powerful governments of England and France. Subsequently Iran became a field of competition between these two powers in terms of their military, political and economic activities in the region. It was during that time that Sir John Malcolm (1769–...

    • CHAPTER 2 Storytelling as a Constituent of Popular Culture: Folk Narrative Research in Contemporary Iran
      (pp. 30-42)
      Ulrich Marzolph

      The following essay draws on the author’s personal experience as a folk narrative researcher over the past thirty years.¹ Since shortly before the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79, I have aimed to stay in close contact with Iranian colleagues active in the field of folk narrative research. The essay deals with four topics. First, it provides a short definition of folk narrative research as a discipline situated between the fields of folklore and anthropology. Second, it sketches the discipline’s historical development in Iran. Third, it identifies the major issues in Iranian folk narrative research. In conclusion, it proposes a tentative...

    • CHAPTER 3 Iranian Anthropology – Crossing Boundaries: Influences of Modernization, Social Transformation and Globalization
      (pp. 43-72)
      Mary Elaine Hegland

      At its heart, anthropology endeavours to cross boundaries. Anthropologists attempt to cross the borders between their own society and culture and those of others to try to understand culture and worldviews elsewhere. Or else a student of anthropology may go far away to study, thereby crossing national or cultural boundaries. In Iran students must pass over the national boundary to become a trained anthropologist because there is no Ph.D. programme in anthropology in the country so far. Nader Afshar Naderi, for example, took this pioneering step: he travelled to France and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the Sorbonne and...

  5. PART II Voices From Within:: Institutions and Professions

    • CHAPTER 4 Anthropology in Postrevolutionary Iran
      (pp. 75-86)
      Nematollah Fazeli

      This chapter examines the development of anthropology as an academic and intellectual discipline in Iran from the 1979 Revolution till the present day. I intend to explore the political and ideological nature of anthropology as an academic discipline in Iran. My major argument is that anthropology in Iran was established in the early twentieth century in the Constitutional period (1906–11) and developed in the Pahlavi era (1941–78). With the advent of the Islamic Revolution it was then faced with some harsh political encounters, but later, with the emergence of new nationalist and reformist ideologies, the discipline began to...

    • CHAPTER 5 Making and Remaking an Academic Tradition: Towards an Indigenous Anthropology in Iran
      (pp. 87-115)
      Nasser Fakouhi

      Within the Iranian academic structure, anthropology can be considered as both an established and a new discipline. This is due to a paradoxical condition that has governed the difficult process that the discipline has been through to attain its present-day position. In the 1950s, during the early stages of the formation of modern social sciences in Iran, anthropologists had ‘authorized’ and ‘legitimate’ social fields, i.e. rural and tribal studies, that not only were recognized by their sociologist counterparts, but also were supported financially and politically by the state.¹ Within the framework of Iranian social research, these fields largely corresponded to...

    • CHAPTER 6 Iranian Anthropologists Are Women
      (pp. 116-132)
      Soheila Shahshahani

      Iranian anthropology is like an orchestra trying to perform in the middle of a highway. Pressured by the police, heavy traffic and people all around, the orchestra tries to hold its concert, but there are many conductors and each instrument is tuned differently. The emanating music, if not worse, is no better than the noise pollution it is trying to overcome.

      One of the most unique characteristics of anthropology compared to other social and human sciences has been its reflexive quality. Having integrated self-criticism as one of its pillars, it has been able to continue its precious existence and make...

  6. PART III Anthropological Practice:: Constraints and Possibilities

    • CHAPTER 7 Applied Anthropology in Iran?
      (pp. 135-142)
      Jean-Pierre Digard

      All Western anthropologists who have worked in Iran have at one time or another encountered a paradoxical attitude among Iranian academics and officials. Because they are Westerners, their capacity to understand ‘Iran’s soul’ is challenged, but at the same time, they are being summoned to put their credentials as anthropologists to use for Iran. In other words, they supposedly cannot understand situations in the country well enough, but they are good enough to put their services at the country’s disposal. This is particularly noticeable in relation to nomadic life, where the only envisaged solution to perceived problems – sedentarization through...

    • CHAPTER 8 Past Experiences and Future Perspectives of an Indigenous Anthropologist on Anthropological Work in Iran
      (pp. 143-156)
      Mohammad Shahbazi

      During my anthropological fieldwork in Iran, I faced three key challenges in using ethnographic research methodologies: (1) identifying and dealing with the realities in the field, (2) gaining access to the subjects and the archived data about them, and (3) adjusting theories and methodologies to the ‘reality’ of actual conditions and findings in the field and later during data analysis and writing. In this chapter I briefly discuss a few well-known works on issues related to the ‘native anthropologists’ and indigenous anthropology and reflect on where I fit in this picture, addressing the first two challenges, succinctly comparing my 1990s...

    • CHAPTER 9 Anthropological Research in Iran
      (pp. 157-179)
      Lois Beck

      I base this chapter on my experience as a cultural anthropologist in Iran, and among Iranians, over a span of forty-six years. I began research in Iran from 1963 to 1964, when I was an undergraduate student at Shiraz University. Then I conducted research in Iran for a doctoral dissertation from 1969 to 1971 and returned to the country on two occasions in 1977 to begin new projects. I continued research in Iran during twelve visits after the Revolution of 1978–79, first in 1979 and most recently in 2004. Since 1977, as part of an oral-history project, I have...

    • CHAPTER 10 Being From There: Dilemmas of a ‘Native Anthropologist’
      (pp. 180-192)
      Ziba Mir-Hosseini

      The Revolution of 1978–79 brought a rupture in anthropological studies of Iran. After more than a decade during which, at any one time, probably more than a score of non-Iranian anthropologists were engaged in field studies in the country, suddenly this ‘field’ was closed to them.¹ At the same time, for native Iranians, the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of the early 1980s closed the universities for two years and led to a restructuring of the curriculum in social sciences and their ‘purification’ from ‘non-Islamic’ elements, mainly done by purging ‘corrupt and westernized’ teachers and replacing them with ‘honest and committed’ ones,...

  7. PART IV Past and Present Perspectives:: Challenging the Future

    • CHAPTER 11 Usual Topics: Taboo Themes and New Objects in Iranian Anthropology
      (pp. 195-206)
      Christian Bromberger

      Anthropology is the totality of human life. But which human has been and remains the object of Iranian studies? It is obviously a truncated human, an incomplete human, identified only through a few activities that seem well-founded to deserve anthropological attention. What is the reason behind the limited notion of anthropology in Iran? In what follows I would like to share a few critical thoughts on the subject.¹

      To start with, I would like to make two preliminary remarks. On the one hand, these critical thoughts concern the anthropology of Iran as studied by Iranians and so-called halfies,² or by...

    • CHAPTER 12 Islamophobia and Malaise in Anthropology
      (pp. 207-224)
      Fariba Adelkhah

      How would you react if someone told you that many Iranian women have never been as free, as independent, and as active as they have been since the 1979 Revolution; that they are actually able to make money, travel, and be ‘breadwinners’? Most likely by suspecting your interlocutor of being an Islamist or defender of the regime. And so, after reading myRevolution under the Veil(1991), an eminent professor of political science in Paris asked me, with a tone of gravity, whether I was the Han Suyin of the Islamic Republic. It goes without saying that this scenario could...

    • CHAPTER 13 Personal Reflections on Anthropology of and in Iran
      (pp. 225-241)
      Richard Tapper

      I welcomed this collection as an occasion for stocktaking, in different ways. This is indeed time for an assessment of what our discipline – anthropology of and in Iran – has achieved so far, and where it might or should go in the future. Having recently retired from a career studying and teaching at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, I also personally appreciated this opportunity, right at the start of ‘the rest of my life’, to reflect on my own trajectory in the discipline, past, present and future.

      As I was clearing out my office at...

  8. Select Bibliography for Anthropology of Iran
    (pp. 242-260)
  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 261-265)
  10. Index
    (pp. 266-278)