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Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism Paperback – June 20, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226007861 ISBN-10: 0226007863 Edition: annotated edition
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Editorial Reviews


"I am very impressed by the authors' clarity of thought, meticulousness of reseaarch, and important insights. Their book's originality lies in the way it links Foucault's main ideas to the Iranian revolution, thereby illuminating one through the other. The authors remind us of Foucault's immense influence on the dominant views in the current debates on Islamism and Iran."--Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi)

From the Inside Flap

Philosopher Michel Foucault was working as a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and Le Nouvel Observateur in 1978 when the protests against the shah of Iran reached their zenith. During this little-known stint as a journalist, Foucault traveled to Iran, met with leaders like Ayatollah Khomeini, and wrote a series of articles on the revolution. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution is the first book-length analysis of these essays on Iran, the majority of which have never before appeared in English. These provocative writings, included here in their entirety as annotated translations, are essential for understanding the history and the future of the West's relationship with Iran and, more generally, to political Islam.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; annotated edition edition (June 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226007863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226007861
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,062,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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97 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Todd May on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book has three elements. A full third is a compilation of Foucault's writings and interviews on Iran. It is a valuable addition to the Foucault literature. Second, there is a historical recounting of Islamism as it pertains to the Iranian revolution. I do not have the expertise to comment on this. The third element, which frames the book, is an extended argument that in Foucault's reading of the Iranian revolution his own larger philosophical perspective is revealed. This element, which I do have expertise in, is comically bad.

The authors claim that Foucault values traditional forms of life over modern ones, and thus embraces (like the radical Islamists) a return to the past. In order to make their case, the authors resort to three strategies. First, they neglect Foucault's own statements about his writings. For instance, the authors insist that he saw ancient Greek sexual life as superior to ours, which Foucault explicitly denies. Second, they engage in egregious misinterpretation. For example, they read Foucault's book on the prisons as a plea for earlier forms of punishment. The first few pages of the prison book, detailing the excruciating torture of an attempted regicide, should be enough to convince anyone of the paucity of that interpretation. Finally, they misread Foucault's own sentences, in one case (p. 16) citing a long quote and then interpreting it as meaning something opposed to what it actually says.

Foucault insisted throughout his life that his work sought to deny the view that history naturally progresses from the worse to the better. The authors seem to think that this means that his view of history was that it moved from the better to the worse.
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35 of 58 people found the following review helpful By John Sanbonmatsu on June 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Foucault and the Iranian Revolution" is by far the most important contribution to critical theory, and to Foucault studies, in years. Coming at a time of a deepening crisis in world politics as well as political philosophy, when the secular liberal ideal is dying and religious fundamentalisms of various stripes--Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu--feed like bacteria on its still moving, breathing corpse, Afary and Anderson's book offers a refreshingly sober and expansive view of the contradictions and aporias of contemporary critical theory. Concentrating on a neglected moment in Foucault's career as a journalist and political commentator, the authors amass a wealth of fascinating details, old and new, to show how Foucault's credulity toward (and even sympathies with) the most reactionary and illiberal elements of the Iranian Revolution, far from being an anomaly or sudden lapse of judgment, was instead the logical outgrowth of his own idiosyncratic theories about modernity, social movements, history, and knowledge. As the authors write: "Foucault's Orientalist impressions of the Muslim world, his selective reading and representation of Greco-Roman texts, and his hostility to modernity and its technologies of the body, led him to prefer the more traditional Islamic/Mediterranean culture to the modern culture of the West."

In short, Foucault was drawn to the radical Islamism of the Ayatollah Khomeini--rather than to the feminist and socialist forces who had helped overthrow the despised Shah--precisely because of his aversion to all modern political institutions and norms, whether liberal or radical.
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10 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sharif Islam on July 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a timely publication and an excellent contribution to Foucault studies. If you are interested in anything related to Foucault this is a must read. Also, if Islamic Fundamentalism and it's constant clash with Western Imperialism is your cup of tea then pick this book now.

The Authors, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson, provide a detail overview of Foucault's writings and interviews on Iran. The authors also recount the historical Iranian revolution. And to connect this two, they offer some analysis and arguments in the context of Foucault's larger work.

Foucault's concern largely dealt with power, knowledge and discourse. I haven't read all of Foucault yet and nor have I read much on Iranian revolution. However, I didn't have any problem following the arguments in the book. What I found fascinating about Foucault is his emphasis on human irrationality. I think _Madness and Civilization_ talks about this in details. That is why the authors found it interesting to talk about Foucault's fascinations with martyrdom. They provide some detail background about Shiite (a sect in Islam) rituals and its connection with the revolution. Some of this practices are regarded as controversial in mainstream Islam.

The authors point out that the Iranian leftist and feminist sects were a major part of the movement. However, as we have seen with past revolutions it didn't turn out as we have expected. Radical Islamism got rid of the secular element pretty easily. The book goes into detail how Foucault "got it wrong" and some other interesting issues related with it.

Political analyst are saying that Ahmadinejad's recent 'landslide' victory can be summed up as a revival of the spirit of the Iranian revolution. I am curious how Foucault would have responded to this.
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