Paper Topic on Iran?
December 9, 2009 11:14 AM   Subscribe

What's an interesting aspect of Iranian society/ Shi'i Islam that would lend itself well to a 10 page expository essay? Nothing too controversial - my professor is Iranian. Just something interesting to write/ learn about. It has to be pretty specific. Thanks for suggestions!
posted by howgenerica to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about Iranian Society, so take this with a huge grain of salt.

Would it be possible to do some research on the transition from a nomadic lifestyle to the present day big city? What have the repercussions been? Has it been better for the everyday Iranian? Worse? How has it changed religion and traditions? It's something I've wondered about, but I may just be ignorant.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2009

I just recently wrote a five page paper on consanguineous marriage in Iran and how it has changed since the Islamic Revolution.
posted by carefulmonkey at 11:51 AM on December 9, 2009

I find the practice of Sigheh (temporary marriage) in Iran to be fascinating. Some starter refs:
Love Finds a Way in Iran: 'Temporary Marriage'
Temporary Marriage in Islamic Law
posted by Paragon at 11:52 AM on December 9, 2009

How about food - maybe dietary laws or practices or agriculture or food associated with various observances/festivals/rites of passage?
posted by pointystick at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2009

Iran's film industry is also a fertile topic for study. And, if you don't mind subtitles, you can watch movies for your research.
posted by jonp72 at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2009

posted by oflinkey at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2009

This might involve more work than you want, and you'd probably have to get it OK'ed by your prof.

When I did a unit on the religions of China, one essay topic I chose was to write from the point of view of a member of the Chinese political/intellectual-class as if I were, say, writing a very long op-ed to be read by both the public and other Chinese elites, about the rise of Buddhism in China while it was happening. In a nutshell, it was "My fellow countrymen, many people are concerned about the presence of Buddhist missionaries from India and the number of Chinese people whom they have converted. We should not fear them for they share our cherished values A, B & C. And we can benefit from their traditions D, E & F. But we must not be too casual, because traits G, H & I can be tolerated but should not become mainstream."

Or you can go for the straight essay on how Islam overlapped/conflicted with Zorastrianism back in the day without the role-playing. Or what points of conflict were truly theological/cultural and which were rooted in the politics of the day.
posted by K.P. at 5:00 PM on December 9, 2009

oops, I deleted the middle part. Which was, you could write an essay from the POV of a 638AD Zorastrian Persian to an audience of Zorastrian Persians advising them about how to come to grips with the Islamic conquest of Persia or imagine yourself an op-ed writer in the 15th century explaining Shia to the Sunni population during the Savid dynasty.
posted by K.P. at 6:12 PM on December 9, 2009

I'd love to read a 10-page paper on the relationship between Koranic law and the particular jurisprudential interpretations of it that Iran applied in the wake of the revolution. The law on modest dress/covering for women is one fascinating topic; another is Islamic finance and modern Iran-- in particular, how the modern state reconciled the need to make the charging of interest legal in order to have a banking system with the Koran's prohibition of it. Yet another is the recent discussion of the possible reform of inheritance laws as a result of the massive impoverishment of widows after the Bam earthquake, since women are traditionally limited to inheriting only "mobile" goods rather than land.

Good luck!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2009

I don't know anything about Iranian Society, so take this with a huge grain of salt.

Would it be possible to do some research on the transition from a nomadic lifestyle to the present day big city? What have the repercussions been? Has it been better for the everyday Iranian? Worse? How has it changed religion and traditions? It's something I've wondered about, but I may just be ignorant.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:47 AM on December 9 [+] [!]

Yeah, take this with enough salt to be pickled. I'm not sure if Iranians have been a nomadic society within historical memory.
posted by atrazine at 7:21 PM on December 9, 2009

That is a very vague question, but I get the impression you are looking for someone to just throw out a bunch of ideas, and see which if any capture your interest while also being innocuous enough to gain your professor's approval. So that's what I'll do-- aim a scattershot of thoughts that went through my mind when I read your question. Since I don't know your field of study, not all will be appropriate, but something may spark:

* How Shia/Persian civil society influenced the social structures that give rise to the extensive use of Qanats in Iran.

* During the Iran-Iraq war, there were periods when Tehran came under near continuous consecutive missile and bombing attacks at night. It became the habit of tens of thousands of middle-class families to get in their cars, drive out of the city each evening, sleep in their cars parked on remote rural roads, and then drive back into the city in the morning to go back to work/school/home. There are so many aspects of this social phenomenon that are crying out to be explored, depending on your field of study. A look at how this technique started, and spread. Or how it affected civilian bombing casualty rates-- did the middle class/car owning families have a higher rate of survival? How did this affect development of the soon-to-be nascent homegrown Iranian car industry?

* Upthread there are good recommendations to examine the Persian resistance to Islamic conquest. A lot of fertile ground there, like:
- Rostam's lament in the Shanameh, "Who is this Arab on his camel come to invade my land and take away my culture?"
- I've always loved almost everything about the history of the battle of Qadisyyah. The linked (Pro-Iranian) article makes an excellent point about how it entered into the Arab lexicon of the conquest as the premier example of heavy resistance and a hard fought battle against Islamic invasion.
- There is an idea that Persian weavers and carpet-makers created what in English is called the Paisley design as an underhanded symbolic protest against Arabs and Islam. Many people throughout the centuries have seen it as a mocking graffiti-ized distortion of the the the classic Islamic crescent.

* Make sure you know where your professor comes from politically, but I've always thought that a study of how emerging technology was used in Iranian Revolution (1979) vs how it is used in the 2008/2009 protests would be fascinating. On one hand, 30 years ago you have revolutionaries using mosques-- which often had the only phone in the neighborhood or town-- to broadcast the messages of the Ayatollah to another phone in another mosque, where people there would use a cassette recorder to tape the phone call/sermon and then locally duplicate small cassette tapes to distribute in their regions. Contrast that with the coordination being done with Twitter today. They are both ingenious uses of cutting edge technological solutions being used to facilitate large scale protest against the government. Check out how the US State Department requested Twitter not to take down their servers for maintenance because it would compromise the democracy movement in Iran. There is a lot of good stuff in this topic.

OK so, there are a few ideas there. Maybe you will find some use in them. Maybe not. I tried to give a few links, even if it was only to wikipedia, but really, I've already wasted a lot of my time doing your homework for you. (I kid.) I'd be interested to know what you finally decide to write your paper on, and would encourage you to update this thread with how it was received and what grade you earned. Ah, to be a student again. It really is wasted on the young. Good luck!
posted by seasparrow at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Search of Zarathustra: Across Iran and Central Asia to Find the World's First Prophet is an excellent book, well-worth reading for its own sake, and might also give you quite a few ideas for your paper topic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2009

No idea if you have time (or inclination) to digest an entire book before you have to write this paper but The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran by Roy Mottahedeh is excellent and could provide you with some useful topics to mull over. If you're at all interested in contemporary Iran, the revolution, etc, I'd recommend reading this anyway, it is terrific.
posted by blue_bicycle at 5:05 PM on December 17, 2009

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