Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award
Sussan Siavoshi’s Montazeri undertakes an examination of one of the key figures in the Iranian clerical hierarchy leading up to the revolution of 1978-79. Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri was responsible for formulating the most thorough justification of “the guardianship of the jurist,” and was named as successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, but he was pushed out of authority after he opposed the execution of political prisoners and criticized the prolongation of the Iran-Iraq war. Rejected by secularists as a supporter of theocracy, Montazeri was also dismissed by the religious hierarchy for his “failure.” Siavoshi’s biography and political analysis offers a nuanced portrait of the ambiguities in the career of this major figure in modern Iranian history, based on a thorough account of his life and career, combined with a comprehensive treatment of his sociopolitical and cultural environment. In the process, the author illuminates Montazeri’s evolution on issues of human rights combined with his stubborn traditionalism on questions relating to gender. Judiciously negotiating competing theories of secularization, Siavoshi offers a rich portrait of the contested legacy of Montazeri, which underlines the need to include actual social practices in the debate on modernity and religion. This well researched and thoughtfully argued contribution to the history of modern Iran is the selection committee’s choice for the 2018 Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award.
Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chair)
Elena Andreeva, Virginia Military Institute
Mojtaba Mahdavi, University of Alberta