Recorded: March 15, 2023
Event: Iranian Studies Lecture Series
by Houchang Chehabi (Boston University)
Aspects of Everyday Life in Iran: Between Religion, State, and the Lure of the West
Iran is one of very few non-Western countries that were never formally colonized. The presence of foreigners was limited in the Imperial Age, and as a result it was largely local elites that, motivated by a patriotic desire to “catch up” with the West, introduced aspects of European culture into Iranian society in order to meet what has come to be known as the standard of “civilization.” Under Reza Shah Europeanization became state policy, while during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah the state was less intrusive and opposition to Westernization increased. The Islamic Republic has tried to counter Western “cultural invasion,” with at best mixed results. These policies have in turn been celebrated, tolerated, ignored, or opposed by different sectors of Iranian society, generating constant culture wars. This lecture series illustrates how religious strictures, state policies, and exposure to the wider world have affected everyday practices in three fundamental domains of human existence: names, food, and dress.
Lecture 1: Iran and the Standard of “Civilization”
This introductory lecture provides a general outline of how the Iranian state and different sectors of Iranian society have responded to the challenge of Western ascendancy. The emphasis will be on cultural practices.