Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Everyday Iran: A Provincial Portrait of the Islamic Republic

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Everyday Iran: A Provincial Portrait of the Islamic Republic

Article excerpt

Everyday Iran: A Provincial Portrait of the Islamic Republic. By Clarissa de Waal. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2015. 198 pp. $94.

Iran-a country of more than 80 million-is incredibly diverse, a patchwork of languages and cultures. In Everyday Iran, Cambridge University anthropologist de Waal focuses on life in the capital city of Fars province, Shiraz, and the Fars tribal hinterlands. Traveling to the province periodically between 2007 and 2012, she looks at villages and towns and describes individuals and families from different socioeconomic backgrounds, providing interesting color on how the controversial 2009 elections transpired in a province unseen by most journalists. Her narrative is refreshingly free-flowing and unencumbered by academic jargon.

Alas, aside from providing colorful anecdotes, Everyday Iran adds little to understanding the country or the considerable scholarship surrounding it. De Waal seems not to know Persian and consults none of the considerable Persian literature surrounding Fars province, such as Mirza Hasan Fasa?i's nineteenth century masterwork, the Farsnamehye Naseri. And while she lists anthropologist Lois Beck's extensive work in the area in her bibliography, her effort fails to match Beck's rigor or revise her understandings.

When it comes to U.S. policy toward Iran, de Waal is sloppy and too ready to embrace conspiracy. She posits that Washington's "disproportionate focus" on Iran and U.S.-imposed sanctions, for example, are motivated by the "humiliation" of the 1979 hostage crisis-never mind Tehran's unrepentant terrorism, its cheating on nuclear accords, and its threats to eradicate Israel. …

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