Modernization or Contemporization of the Iranian Culture
کتاب «مدرن یا امروزی شدن فرهنگ» که در سال 1387 منتشر شد، امسال با ویرایش جدید تجدید چاپ می شود. در این چاپ 8 فصل به آن افزوده ام و بعضی فصل های پیشین را نیز بازنویسی کرده ام. این کتاب مهمترین نوشته من درباره جامعه ایران است و امیدوارم منتشر شود و مهمتر از آن با استقبال شما خوانندگان روبرو شود. سایت انگلیسی Iran Democrasy در تاریخ 26 نوامبر 2011 یعنی سه سال پیش خلاصه ای از چاپ قبلی این کتاب به زبان انگلیسی منتشر کرد.
Nematollah Fazeli’s book, “Modernization or Contemporization of the Iranian Culture” (original title in Persian: “مدرن یا امروزی شدن فرهنگ ایران”), is a collection of his ethnographic case studies narrating the process of Iran's modernization through the prism of cultural studies. The book consists of two sections: “Reinvention or Contemporization of Traditions” and “Culture’s Mediazation and Technologization”, with nine chapters aiming to cast a look on the process of Iran's modernization, with his focus mainly on the 1380s (2001-2011).
At the core of his argument, Fazeli maintains that all in all, Iran has been successful in the process of modernization, forming its own ‘localized’ version of modernism, and that it has passed the transitional phase between traditional and modern societies, if one views modernization as a ‘process’ rather than a ‘project’. A critical consciousness has emerged among the contemporary Iranian society, Fazeli argues, adding that he defines Iranian modernity as “a type of rethinking and redefining of tradition and history in the light of Western civilization, or Iranizing the West in Iran's historical and traditional context.” (p. 14)
Chapters one and two of the book study the impact of contemporary cultural developments –modernization, globalization, mediazation, development of communication technologies, secularization, transformation of the concept of ‘family’, technologization and the promotion of individualism- on the prevalent lifestyle of villages in Iran. The author has chosen his birthplace, the village of Moslehabad in the Markazi Province in central Iran, as the case for his study of the shift in the lifestyle of Iranian villages throughout recent decades.
Chapter Three, “Contemporization of Mosques”, is an attempt to understand discursive shifts on the concept of ‘mosques as religious organizations’ during the past two decades. According to Fazeli, “political developments such as the Constitutional Revolution, the rise of the Pahlavi Dynasty and the Islamic Revolution […] have each created specific discourses on religion and religious centers and organizations.” (p. 97) The Islamic Revolution and establishment of a theocracy led to the resurgence of religion in social, political and cultural domains. Fazeli discerns four prevalent discourses with regard to the mosques in Iran. These include the ‘traditional discourse’, an extension to the discourse that emerged since the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on key concepts such as the functions, norms and the stature of mosques in Islam; the ‘secular discourse’, mainly based on liberal approaches, in which mosques are religious centers in which the individuals appear voluntarily and without any compulsion; the ‘revolutionary ideological discourse’, based on the reading of religious intellectuals such as Ali Shariati and the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini, in which mosques should serve as the nexus of political, social and religious activities; and the ‘critical ideological discourse’, which emerged after the end of the 8-year war with Iraq and the stabilization of the Islamic Republic, and tries to present a new definition of the relation between mosques and the Islamic system and to utilize social sciences and methodologies to promote a religious culture.
Chapter Four, “Contemporization of Superstitions” focuses on fortune-telling as a cultural text and its relation with glocal developments, particularly the process of ‘leisurization of the society.’ Psychological, economic, historical, political, social and cultural dimensions of fortune-telling are explored by Fazeli, as well as fortune-telling’s relation to leisure time. In terms of cultural dimension, the author categorizes the Iranian type of fortune-telling into three divisions: “problem oriented fortune-telling, which aims to find a solution to a problem [in personal life]; faith-based fortune-telling, which serves to satisfy a certain ritual or cultural belief and leisure-based fortune-telling, which aims to entertain and fill spare time.” (p. 196)
In Chapter Five, titled “Contemporization of Norouz”, Fazeli studies the celebration of this age-old Iranian ritual among the Iranian Diaspora and tries to explain how globalization has affected the quality of celebrating and understanding Norouz. He also tries to explain the difference in attitude towards Norouz between the Iranian immigrant communities and their compatriots living inside Iran. Fazeli’s case of study in this chapter is the Iranian community of London. Under subsections “Norouz, Immigrants, Modernity and Globalization”, “Commensurability of Norouz and Modernity”, “Norouz and the Immigrants’ Identity Needs” and “Norouz and Multiculturalization of the West”, Fazeli reviews the celebration of Norouz by the Iranian Diaspora across the world and based on his personal observation, argues that the Iranian immigrant communities regard Norouz as a collective activity which cements their social connections via settings such as cultural, educational and social centers. Introducing Iranian culture to other nations and conveying the Iranian culture and language to the next generation are their key objectives in celebrating Norouz.
Chapter Six, “Contemporization of the Iranian Culture through Digital Means” is an effort to find an answer to a number of questions, including how the application of the internet and computers has influenced social, political and value-related trends of their Iranian users, how it has affected interpersonal relations and the established cultural and traditional structures, and how it connects to Iran's political system. Fazeli points out that unlike many modern industrial products that entered Iran in earlier decades, the internet and the computer have faced less resistance by the public. He attributes this to the increasing speed of cultural and social developments that prevents people from reflecting on the embracement or rejection of these products, in addition to the fact that the Iranian modernity is now a well-established structure that further encourages the people to absorb modern products. Fazeli maintains that the political debates revolving around the internet as a challenge still exist in the Iranian society, while a ban on immoral websites on the internet (considering the theocratic nature of the Islamic Republic) are intertwined with the political implications of the digitalization process, making the whole issue ever complicated.
Chapter Seven, “Contemporization through Technology”, is a concise study aimed to describe how Iranian society has responded to the introduction of modern technologies through reviewing some real-life examples. The fact that most state-of-the-art technologies of the age have been introduced by Iranian-Armenians or by foreigners is regarded by Fazeli as a sign that Muslim Iranian society has acted tentatively towards such products. As with many other nations, the Iranians resorted to two basic tactics to discourage usage of a new product: ‘ideological rejection’ and depicting the product as against religious values, and ‘rationalized rejection’ –in case the faith-based arguments were not powerful enough. Three typical arguments were presented in the ‘rationalized rejection’ mode: that the newly-introduced product was either inefficient, irrelevant to Iranian society’s technological, economic or social circumstances, or was lower in quality compared with its traditional alternative. Fazeli reiterates that the more the Iranian society has moved towards modernism, the more it has been receptive of new technologies, as the cases of products such as cell phones and computers prove.
“Contemporization of the Educational System”, the eighth chapter, focuses on the “cultural understanding” of computers and networks in the Iran educational setting. “Computer as a Problem”, “Computer as a Sign”, “Computer as a Communication Device” and “Computer as an Experience” and “Computer as a Challenge” study the interplay between the computer and Iranian culture from an anthropological aspect.
Chapter Nine, “Mediazation of Soccer in Iran; Reality or Representation?” is an attempt to study the media narrative of soccer in Iran, a part of the political system’s political discourse, according to Fazeli. The chapter starts with a theoretical sociological review of soccer and its political and social functions, later to shift to the theoretical challenges that soccer as a modern, ‘secularized’ sport poses for the Islamic Republic as a theocratic political system. The cause of the state-run media’s focus on soccer and the representation of soccer components (e.g. the players, the coach, the spectators), are studied subsequently. An important implication of soccer is its extension to social protests and political unrest. According to Fazeli, “street carnivals following the victory of the Iranian national soccer team in crucial matches are mostly political and cultural carnivals laden with a collection of ideological signs and symbols that defy the political system’s official ideology. These include dancing, music, political chants, mingling between the opposite sexes and upsetting the city’s calm.” (p. 330). He also refers to the freedom that the press enjoys following every defeat, as they find an opportunity to delve into the administrative and political roots of the failures. Soccer as a modern sport is theoretically at odds with the political and theocratic discourse of the Iranian political system, Fazeli argues, hence the first and foremost function of the media in representation of soccer being a ‘controlled’ representation of the sport, i.e. selecting certain elements and cutting out others.
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