The Experience of the Iranian Revolution of 1979

Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:30 PM
Gibson Suite (New York Hilton)
Naghmeh Sohrabi, Brandeis University
On February 11th, 1979, a revolution was declared in Iran to the surprise of both many observers and participants.  But what does a revolution feel like to those in its midst before the term is even used to define this great upheaval? Through a combination of archival documents and ethnographic interviews with a variety of people (including ordinary citizens who demonstrated or who stayed at home), this paper will lay out some of the theoretical and empirical issues that arise in bridging the gap between historians’ understanding of the revolution (by nature a cohesive narrative) and the ways in which it was experienced (often fractured, and muddled). 

By adding ethnographic data to the vast amount of historical records available (newspapers, underground pamphlets, memoirs, and visual materials), I hope to a) provide a new understanding of the 1979 revolution, by focusing on a revolution that is both old enough to have become historicized but young enough to be accessible as a living memory, b) provide insight into other revolutions both past and present, and c) make a methodological and theoretical contribution to the study of revolutions and mass uprisings. The synthesis of ethnography and history will thus both highlight and question what has been recorded in the written documents, and help articulate the links between how a revolution is experienced and how it is remembered.

Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>