SUMMARY:Politics—be it conventional governance affairs or the contentious politics of revolutions and social movements—is at the forefront of scholarship about contemporary Iran. As the last and most enigmatic revolution of the 20th century, the Iranian revolution is still being researched rigorously. The unusual structure of state ideology and institutions under the Islamic Republic, their eventful development over the last four decades, and their immense impact on everyday life in the country deserve every bit of academic attention that they receive and even more. The many protests and social movements that have shaken the country and the heavy repression machinery of the state still remain to be fully explored.
But a simple fact is sometimes overshadowed in our engagement with the juggernaut of Iranian politics: Beyond and beneath the most obvious manifestations of the political, life goes on with as many intricacies and complexities as in any other society on earth. Of course, everyday life in the country is enmeshed in politics so heavily that the two are barely separable. Nevertheless, we find a plethora of new social worlds when we shift the gaze from the events of the revolution, the Islamic Republic government, and the NGOs, activists, and protests, to everyday matters such as education, work, health, romance, family, leisure, arts and many other fields that together constitute life for Iranians.
This panel brings together scholars who, in recent years, have undertaken the task of exploring life in Iran despite the raucous politics. We ask what it means to study the everyday social in a highly politicized society under intense authoritarian rule. What are the epistemological and methodological dilemmas in parsing social life from political currents and institutions? How can investigating social life change the way we understand and study Iranian politics? And how does scholarship on the everyday enable us to de-exoticize contemporary Iran and address an audience outside of area studies?