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CONFERENCE: Thirty Years On: The Social and Cultural Impacts of the Iranian Revolution

Untitled - Courtesy of Kaveh KazemiCALL FOR PAPERS

A conference focusing on the developments in the social and cultural lives of Iranians since the revolution.

Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London
5-6 June 2009

Organised by

Centre for Media and Film Studies at SOAS, Iran Heritage Foundation, London Middle East Institute at SOAS.

Covened by

Prof. Annabelle Sreberny (SOAS) and Dr. Massoumeh Torfeh (SOAS).


The revolution of 1979 that brought the Islamic Republic into being has produced profound yet contradictory changes in the social and cultural spheres of Iranian life. While religious ideology and revolutionary fervour remain the credo of the state, the younger generation that makes up seventy percent of the population appear neither very revolutionary nor very ideological in any classic sense, while at the same time they seem to be inventing a new politics for the 21st century. The encounters between religious tradition and secular modernity, between new technologies and old ways of seeing, have a long history in Iran but have become more pronounced over the past thirty years as a religious state attempts to reconfigure public life at the very moment that globalizing trends in ideas and images are felt inside Iran.

As formal politics remains highly constrained, new forms are being invented. This produces the ironic consequence that despite a state that discourages many forms of modern entertainment and what it deems as non-Islamic culture, the Internet, music, arts, photography and film have become potent means of communication in Iran. While issues of nuclear weapons and international insecurity dominate the mainstream media inside and outside Iran, issues around women's rights, personal freedoms and new cultural practices have taken centre stage amongst Iranians themselves. Young men and women activists, lawyers, journalists and workers use the Internet as an effective space for gathering, organizing and communicating their latest messages. Young rap singers invite their contemporaries to "stand up" and "persevere". While women are required to maintain Islamic modesty, they are using film and photography to illustrate their widening horizons and open vision. Rates of transgender surgery and heroin addiction are high. Unemployment and poverty are growing and inflation seems out of control. The family is under pressure when the state does not provide. The international cultural market welcomes contemporary forms of Iranian expression even as they are find limited distribution inside Iran.

This conference proposes to focus on these contradictory developments in the social and cultural lives of Iranians since the revolution. It aims to bring some of the best-known practitioners in the media and contemporary arts inside Iran together with academicians and theoreticians of these developments in a unique encounter. The first day will focus mainly on social issues and changing values around women and young people, while the second day will examine novel forms of cultural expressivity including rap music and blogging.

Conference events will include live music and comedy.


The conference will focus on, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • New roles for women;
  • Changing family structure and the lives of young people;
  • Music and creativity;
  • Varied voices within official media - Radio Javan, Gofto Goo, Payam;
  • Images beyond Orientalism - the explosion of art and photography;
  • Youth culture, fashion and design;
  • Comedy, cartoons and satire;
  • Tehran as a global city;
  • Urban change beyond the capital;
  • Social networking and the internet - from Facebook to Orkut;
  • New writing cultures from blogging to SMS;
  • Establishing the cultural industries inside Iran; and
  • Connecting the inside and the outside - diasporas and everyday life.


Proposals for papers and for themed panels should be sent to Dr. Massoumeh Torfeh, Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS, University of London, Russell Square, London WC1H OXG ( by January 15, 2009. All proposals should include an abstract of the proposed paper up to 500 words, a short personal biography and full contact details. Panel proposals need to include abstracts of all proposed papers and details of all proposed speakers. All proposed papers must constitute unpublished new research. Authors of papers presented at the conference must commit themselves to publish their papers in the publication described below, if the editors of the publication select their papers for inclusion in the publication.


A book, edited by Annabelle Sreberny and Massoumeh Torfeh, of selected papers from the conference will be published by I. B. Tauris Publishers, in the series "Iran and the Persianate World".


Dr. Massoumeh Torfeh,

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