- Paperback: 358 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Annotated edition edition (20 Jun. 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226007863
- ISBN-13: 978-0226007861
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,056,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender And The Seductions Of Islamism Paperback – 20 Jun 2005
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"This is an important and extremely timely book. For decades there has been debaaate, sometimes hushed, sometimes bitter, about Michel Foucault's celebration of the Iranian revolution. What we have lacked is documentary evidence of what was said, and by whom. Afary and Anderson have provided an immense service by translating the relevant writings by Foucault and, more significantly, his critics. The story that emerges from the translations and the thoughtful, measured analysis of them is gripping."--Mark Lilla, author of The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics
In 1978, as the protests against the Shah of Iran reached their zenith, philosopher Michel Foucault was working as a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and Le Monde. During his 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. Accompanying the analysis are annotated translations of the Iran writings in their entirety and the at times blistering responses from such contemporaneous critics as Middle East scholar Maxime Rodinson as well as comments on the revolution by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. In this important and controversial account, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault's support of the Islamist movement. They also show how Foucault's experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought, influencing his ideas on the Enlightenment, homosexuality, and his search for political spirituality.Foucault and the Iranian Revolution informs current discussion on the divisions that have reemerged among Western intellectuals over the response to radical Islamism after September 11. Foucault's provocative writings are thus essential for understanding the history and the future of the West's relationship with Iran and, more generally, to political Islam. In their examination of these journalistic pieces, Afary and Anderson offer a surprising glimpse into the mind of a celebrated thinker. See all Product description
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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. Maybe positively? In a way, Foucault was 'anit-modernist'. He talks about 'political spirituality' to be a alternative to modern democratic institution. It is possible, that Ahmadinejad banked on some anti-American / anit-Western sentiment. What does that mean for radical Islamism which have to deal with compassionate conservatives?
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. It is harder to imagine a more fundamental mistake in the interpretation of Foucault's work.
All of this is unfortunate, particularly since Foucault, normally an astute observer of events, sorely misread the Iranian revolution. This requires explanation. The authors have provided the resources on which to base such an explanation. However, given their inability to understand even the basics of Foucault's work, the explanation itself will have to await another book.