In 1978 and 1979 revolutions in Afghanistan and Iran marked a shift in the balance of power in South West Asia and the world. Then, as now, the world is once more aware that tribalism is no anachronism in a struggle for political and cultural self-determination. This books provides historical and anthropological perspectives necessary to the eventual understanding of the events surrounding the revolutions.
The contributors address the history, originality, variety and sophistication of traditional science, technology and material culture in the Middle East and Central Asia, their influence on the history of Europe and the West, and the threat posed by modern Western technologies.
In today’s world all eyes are on Iran, which has grappled with an experiment that has had a massive global impact. For some, the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 was the triumph of a modern, political Islam, heralding Muslim justice and economic prosperity. Others, including many of the original revolutionaries, saw religious fanatics attempting to roll back time by creating a despotic theocracy. Either way, the Iranian Revolution changed the Muslim world. It not only inspired the Muslim masses but also reinvigorated intellectual debates on the nature and possibilities of an Islamic state. The new ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’ combined not just religion and the state, but theocracy and democracy. Yet the revolution’s heirs were soon engaged in a protracted struggle over its legacy. Dissident thinkers, from within an Islamic framework, sought a rights-based political order that could accept dissent, tolerance, pluralism, women’s rights and civil liberties. Their ideas led directly to the presidency of Mohammad Khatami and, despite their political failure, they did leave a permanent legacy by demystifying Iranian religious politics, and condemning the use of the Shariah to justify autocratic rule. This book tells the story of the reformist movement through the world of Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari. An active supporter of the revolution who became one of the most outspoken critics of theocracy, Eshkevari developed ideas of ‘Islamic democratic government’, which have attracted considerable attention in Iran and elsewhere. In presenting a selection of Eshkevari’s writings, this book reveals the intellectual and political trajectory of a Muslim thinker and his attempts to reconcile Islam with reform and democracy. As such it makes a highly original contribution to our understanding of the difficult social and political issues confronting the Islamic world today.
Iranian cinema is today widely recognized not merely as a distinctive national cinema, but as one of the most innovative in the world. Established masters like Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf have been joined by newcomers like Samira Makhmalbaf, Majid Majidi, Ja’far Panahi and Bahman Qobadi, and their films are screened to increasing acclaim in international festivals. This international stature both fascinates Western observers and appears paradoxical in line with perceptions of Iran as anti-modern. The largely Iranian contributors to this welcome book look in depth at how Iranian cinema became a true ‘world cinema’. From a range of perspectives, they explore cinema’s development in post Revolution Iran and its place in Iranian culture.