Emergence of an “Unauthorized Generation”: Challenges of Political Culture, Identity and Belonging in Contemporary Iran

  • Abstract:

    Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a major shift in the cultural and public discourse. Having religion as the main source of inspiration for culture, the institutions were built, and the rituals were designed to establish a new set of values and beliefs. Abdolkarim Soroush, the contemporary Islamic thinker has argued that the Iranian society can be characterized by three different yet coexisting cultures; national culture, religious culture and western culture. The shift in public discourse after the Islamic revolution, put some aspects of Iranian (collective) identity and culture under spotlight and promoted them with setting new institutions and rituals and neglected some of the aspects. Many of the national oriented rituals, such as the carnivals, which were to cherish and celebrate the pre-Islamic heritage, were labelled as sanatic or Taghuti and removed from the calendar and the street carnivals became limited only to few rallies in support of the state. Only one sense of identity was accepted, and the different groups with different sense of belonging, had to be assimilated into the only accepted discourse of political culture. But what was the resonance of such identity construction, and how did the society respond to this process? Using the concepts of power-resistance in everyday life of Iranian youth, as well as the space encroachment by Asef Bayat(1) in this part of my research, I will try to trace the challenges of hegemonic political culture and the society’s reaction(negotiation) for recognition through some of the highlighted rituals over the last decade.
    Note: (1) Asef Bayat, Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Stanford: Stanford university press, 2010).