Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran

Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran
Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl

Abstract: In the 1970s social cultural anthropology in Iran was beginning to flourish. However, with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Islamic Republic of Iran, fi eldwork in Iran became extremely problematic. Foreign anthropologists faced formidable obstacles to obtaining visas and permits. Anthropologists working inside Iran were also discouraged from anthropological participant observation. As a result, during the post revolutionary period, few anthropologists have been conducting fi eldwork in Iran. Recently, some hopeful signs for a possible reestablishment of anthropology can be noted, among them the return of young Iranian anthropologists, from countries where they have grown up and gained an education, to their homeland for dissertation research. Th is article discusses the influences on fieldwork of politics—international, national and local—and projects, problems and strategies of some anthropologists who have conducted recent ethnographic fi eldwork in Iran.

At the summer 2000 International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS) meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, which brought together mostly scholars from the U.S., several anthropologists who have conducted recent fi eldwork in Iran presented papers about their research. We were asked to turn the panel into a special issue of Iranian Studies. Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies:

Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran (2004). As Iranian anthropologists, impeded by the tremendous diffi culties of conducting fi eldwork in Iran, have not been well represented in anthropology journals, Iranian Studies pages or in other Middle East Studies journals, such as Middle East Journal and International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, this issue presents an encouraging development. For the special issue of Iranian Studies, we drew on those who had presented at the original panel and a few others whom we knew. A few colleagues declined our invitation or could not meet the deadline. Ten contributors are anthropologists; one is a physician and anthropologist; one a lawyer and anthropologist; and one is a cultural geographer. Seven contributors are based in the U.S., four in Europe, one in Japan and one in Iran. Of the seven authors who are based in the U.S., three are of Iranian background, as is one of the four individuals based in Europe. Th e authors were limited to persons who write in English. Th e contributions provide examples of the range of ethnographic work recently conducted in Iran and the methodological strategies employed.1 Since the time of the original panel, we have made eff orts to broaden our knowledge of other anthropologists who have, since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, conducted anthropological fi eldwork in Iran or among Iranians. Other scholars will continue making connections among Iran anthropologists and highlighting their work, including publications in languages other than English, the authors hope, so that we may rebuild and strengthen the fi eld of Iranian anthropology.

In this article, we present some aspects of the various articles included in the 2004 Iranian Studies special issue, and what they bring out about recent ethnographic fi eldwork methodologies in Iran, and the infl uences on them. Th e section ‘Fieldwork Methodology Issues’ is an expansion of the original ‘Guest Editor’s Introduction’ (Friedl and Hegland 2004: 569–73). We will also consider additional publications in English only and have thus not included the many publications by anthropologists based in France.

Conditions of Fieldwork in Iran
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the 2004 Iranian Studies special issue makes clear, fi eldworkers hoping to conduct research in Iran have encountered great resistance. Authors discuss the conditions of their fi eldwork eff orts, and the steps they took to try to deal with these challenges. Th is reminds us that social cultural anthropology is not a laboratory science. One cannot control investigatory conditions; many diff erent infl uences impinge on the fi eldwork experience and call for modifi cation of the methods by which one goes about collecting and producing data, and therefore also channel the fi ndings that one can derive from the research. Since anthropological fi eldwork requires the researcher to live locally and develop relationships, interacting on an intimate and long-term basis with informants, national and international politics can prevent or severely hinder anthropological research.

Given the centrality of the fi eldwork experience to the anthropological endeavour, it is surprising that more attention has not been given to the condiPolitical Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 3 tions that channel various fi eldwork experiences and infl uence the development and presentation of fi ndings. Findings and analysis are generally presented as fi nished products without enough indication of the long and oft en arduous process of fi eldwork, including the barriers one may have had to overcome or circumvent or the impediments that moulded the fi eldwork experience and methodologies. Anthropologists know how diffi cult research can be, and how out of our own control. Although we may become accustomed to this and take it for granted, others may not realise what anthropologists go through to construct anthropological knowledge.

Perhaps unwilling to appear incompetent, anthropologists may not wish to reveal their failures or shortcomings, even to each other, Shahnaz Nadjmabadi suggests in her article (2004: 603–12). Fieldwork challenges at times may be so overwhelming that the research is not attempted, interrupted at a point, or the data are not collected, analysed or presented. We do not hear much about aborted research projects or how researchers had to attempt an alternative project when the fi rst proved untenable. Fieldwork conditions before, during and aft er the 1979 Iranian Revolution resulted in many such cases. Anthropologists must be tenacious and fl exible, prepared to pursue their research under discouraging conditions, and also, when necessary, to try diff erent approaches, methodologies, or even, fi nally, projects or fi eldwork sites. Sometimes anthropologists have to invent research methodologies and perspectives, when previously developed methodologies are not appropriate for the research situation, or when methodologies have not been yet developed for a certain topic (see Friedl 2004b; Osanloo 2004; Shahbazi 2004). So much of the anthropological enterprise goes on in the fi eldwork setting, when the anthropologist creatively responds to the people and conditions of that setting, trying out diff erent ways of learning and modifying approaches in reaction to ongoing experiences. Since the Iranian Revolution Iranian anthropology has faced almost insurmountable obstacles. During the revolutionary process and during the subsequent Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, of course, conditions did not favour fi eld research in Iran. Subsequently, conditions for social-cultural anthropologists did not improve much either. Th ose anthropologists working and living inside Iran were restrained by such problems as intellectual isolation, an antifi eldwork culture, lack of time, research funding and academic freedom. Oft en foreign anthropologists who had been working in Iran, discouraged by severe problems in obtaining visas, research permits and funding (the American government does not provide funds for research in Iran, for example), gave up and began research projects elsewhere. Th ose anthropologists living abroad but with Iranian origin and Iranian passports could gain entrance, but sometimes chose to go elsewhere.2 A number of anthropologists decided to focus on Iranians in Diaspora.3 Foreign anthropology students without connections in Iran could not hope to begin fi eldwork in Iran and did not choose Iran for their dissertation projects. Within Iran, so far no university has a Ph.D. programme in anthropology and few opportunities for postgraduate study are available. As a 4 _ Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl result of all these obstructions, only a handful of anthropologists managed to conduct fi eldwork in Iran, preventing the fi eld of Iranian anthropology from dying out entirely.

Fieldwork Methodology Issues
For reasons of limited space we asked the contributors to the Iranian Studies volume to concentrate on fi eldwork methodology. Despite the narrow topic, several issues emerged in the articles. Th e community of Iran-centred anthropologists is small. Just as it started to take off in Iran during the 1970s, aft er the 1979 Revolution ethnographic research was curtailed.4 Since then it has stagnated because access to Iran for foreign anthropologists is severely restricted, as is access for Iranian scholars to their colleagues abroad and even opportunities for students in Iran to study anthropology. Furthermore, anthropology in Iran is not a popular course of study nor is fi eldwork a popular activity. Because of the infl uence of changing political dynamics, research possibilities are fraught with uncertainty and frustration and, most oft en, closed doors. For those who love Iranian culture and are fascinated by Iranian cultural and social dynamics, the resulting dearth of ethnographers and anthropologists working in Iran currently is a sad situation indeed.
Foreign researchers face almost insurmountable barriers to gaining access to visas for conducting fi eldwork. Visas are extremely diffi cult to obtain, and if forthcoming, generally are good for one month only. Administrative pathways for the issuance of permits have been worked out to an extent for archaeologists but are not yet in place for ethnographers. Th is means conditions are not conducive for time-consuming standard ethnographic research that is rather slow and therefore requires time. For this reason, most work by foreign scholars in Iran is done on short-term visas and quickly, even making it necessary to adapt standard methodologies to the requirements of ‘zip in and zip out’ ethnography (Hegland 2004). Th e possibility of obtaining Iranian visas increases and declines over time. Foreign researchers can never be sure what visa conditions will be like. Most foreign ethnographers who had worked in Iran have given up because of the uncertainty and near impossibility of obtaining visas. Further, branches of the U.S. government that provide research funding to scholars will not give money for research in Iran. Th ere have been no Fulbright fellowships for Iran or Social Science Research Council grants—two of the common sources for an thropological and ethnographic research funding. Aspiring anthropologists in Iran face barriers of lack of anthropology programmes, lack of funding and discouragement of fi eldwork, which is, aft er all, at the centre of the anthropological enterprise. Due to these diffi culties ethnographic fi eldwork in Iran has become the province of a very few dedicated, tenacious, doggedly determined scholars.
Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 5 Various intelligence organisations monitor foreigners’ activities in Iran. At the same time Iran based anthropologists face a number of barriers to conducting and publishing fi eldwork. Governmental control of anthropologists is especially common in politically sensitive areas, tribal areas, for example, but also where scholars work close to government institutions, such as a university. By and large it seems that the longer one stays the more likely one’s work is to arouse the suspicion of local offi cials and the more likely supervision will interfere. Th e experience of the contributors suggest that it is easier to work on short-term projects; with politically neutral groups such as the elderly or children; if one is of Iranian descent; if one’s project is of particular interest to Iranian offi cials; in Tehran, where the anonymity of a huge city is like a shield; and if one has relatives or close friends who provide a safe haven and contacts for building up a research population. A few signs suggest that the atmosphere of suspicion surrounding social scientifi c work in Iran might be changing for the better, especially in collaborative projects with Iranian colleagues and institutions, but such trends can quickly reverse according to political conditions. Sadly, fi eldwork conditions in Iran have meant that although Iran has been going through tremendous change and transformation in recent decades, anthropologists have been unable to record the richness of Iranian culture before many aspects have disappeared. Th e dynamics of change and transformation have been lost, as have how these changes have been instigated and experienced at the local level and how people have used their creativity to cope with change, and create new strategies, traditions, cultural pathways and social relations. Only recently has the new small wave of anthropologists with Iranian backgrounds who have Iranian passports begun to return to Iran and study the exciting cultural dynamics of present day Iran. Students of Iranian background living abroad are apparently more able to avoid parental and social pressures to study medicine or engineering. Further, students and scholars based abroad enjoy far better access to anthropology programmes of study and funding. Th is newly emerging trend of anthropologists from Iranian backgrounds returning for fi eldwork in their home country deserves hopeful observation. Given the political challenges to conducting fi eldwork in Iran, the involvement of this special group in reviving the fi eld of Iranian anthropology is crucial. Scholars based in Western countries who were born in Iran or are of Iranian descent have personal experiences that are diff erent from those of foreign anthropologists visiting Iran as outsiders, but are no less complex. Th ese experiences greatly infl uence the ways the scholars conduct their research. Expectations and demands by local people, relatives or friends are problems for visiting anthropologists, although rarely discussed in ethnographic texts (Nadjmabadi 2004; Osanloo 2004; Rouhani 2004; Shahbazi 2004). Th e expectations infl uence not only the quality of life in the fi eld but also fi eldwork methodology. A variant of this theme is the adjustments to one’s work necessitated by the presence of one’s children in the fi eld (Tober 2004).

In spite of problems of time limitations, monitoring by government agencies and expectations and demands by local people, oft en ethnographers greatly appreciated people in their research sites for their generosity, openness and dedication to the research projects. Hegland, for example, would never have been able to accomplish as much on her two-week fi eldwork visit to Aliabad without the assistance of those who maintained their friendship with her over 25 years and spent hours upon hours taking her around to visit the elderly and talking with her about issues of aging and the elderly (Hegland 2004).Today, phone calls and even a few e-mail messages help Hegland to keep in contact, in addition to the occasional letters during the 1980s and 1990s. However, even those individuals with whom she had no contact since 1979 welcomed her warmly, showered her with hospitality and gift s to take home and enthusiastically assisted her with research. Participants in women’s religious rituals were eager to teach Kalinock about their understandings of Islam, and invite her to their gatherings, sometimes hoping for her conversion (Kalinock 2004). R. Loeffl er points to the immediate hospitality of people in a Lori village, back in 1965 when he fi rst arrived, and the decades-long welcoming attitude and teaching relationships off ered by close friends and companions. Particularly in the examples provided by Friedl and R. Loeffl er, because of their long decades of research in the same village, we can see how they come to be known by locals and incorporated into village discourse, relationships, memories and myths (Friedl 1997, 2004; Loeffl er 1988, 2004, forthcoming). Especially when anthropologists have prior relationships or are introduced by a trusted associate, Iranian informants are generally warm, friendly and helpful to fi eldworkers. People are delighted to welcome anthropologists to rituals and gatherings.
They are eager to teach anthropologists and to associate with foreigners. Despite the sophistication in the theory of postmodern data-gathering with its emphasis on refl exivity, transparency and on the creation of data as a cooperative eff ort, the actual fi eldwork methodologies and the interactive patterns indirectly and directly described in the articles are largely rather modernist, if not to say traditional. Categories remain distinct: there are interviewers and interviewees; researcher and research population; scholars and informants. R. Loeffl er, however, discusses his close emotional ties to some village men, several of whom saw themselves as his teachers, and with whom he discussed religion, spirituality and philosophy in depth, during mutually probing and edifying conversations (2004). For Osanloo, some of her informants grew to be teachers and confi dantes (2004). Th ere are also some unrefl ected status diff erences and status-based interactive patterns—compare a well-connected indigenous male researcher’s experiences ‘in the fi eld’ (Amanolahi 1985, 1989, 2004;

Shahbazi 2004) with those of a young, foreign female one5 (Kalinock 2004; A. Loeffl er 2004; Suzuki 2004); there is a casual handling of ‘informed consent;’ there are ‘facts’ as well as ‘good’ and ‘unreliable’ data (Amanolahi 2004). Here again, though, R. Loeffl er suggests how tied to time an observation or ‘the truth’ can be, and how nonreplicable over time are ethnography and analysis. Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 7 Roxanne Varzi’s research project is the only one we might call postmodern, as its goal was not objectivity or the description of a measurable ‘truth’ of a postulated ethnographic reality. Varzi, a U.S.-based anthropologist of Iranian descent, organised a discussion group (doreh) in Tehran with students, let the students decide on themes for discussions and asked them to keep a journal. By letting students in the group talk about whatever they wanted without directing them, she prevented establishment of an object–subject relationship and the accumulation of knowledge on one, pre-chosen topic. Her observations—she, too, mainly relied on observations and interviews—and the analysis of the journals provided the main data for her dissertation and just published book (2006).

Considering how few and how standardised our main ethnographic methodologies are, an astounding variety in the personal styles of fi eldwork and in the interactive patterns with the research population emerges from the articles. Th e diff erences range from frustrating personal relationships created in the wake of activist goals (Nadjmabadi 2004); to interacting with a grandmother and other relatives to learn about their views of women’s rights (Osanloo 2004); or quietly observant relations over several generations (Friedl 1991, 1994, 2004a, 2004b); or engaging in in-depth, philosophical, one-to-one discussion during long periods of isolated companionship (R. Loeffl er 1988, 2004); from being engaged in several projects simultaneously in diff erent parts of the country (Amanolahi 2004); to returning to the same place and the same people many times (Amanolahi 2004; Friedl 2004; Hegland 2004; Kalinock 2004; R. Loeffl er 2004; Shahbazi 2004; Suzuki 2004); from scribbling hasty notes to recording interviews and observations on a laptop computer on site (Hegland 2004), to memorizing long interviews for later write-up (R. Loeffl er 2004). Although we concentrated on methodology, questions of ethics arose frequently in the texts. Several contributors wondered what our friends in the fi eld get from us in return for their willingness to be included in our research, for allowing us to live with them and answering our questions. Not much is the typical conclusion. However, particularly since the American attack on Iraq, Hegland recalls Iranians asking her to report their kindnesses and positive aspects of culture and civilisation back to Americans, clearly in hopes of dissuasion from an American attack against Iran as well. On her recent trips back to Aliabad, residents have asked her to bring photos of now dead family members; she owned one of the only two cameras in the village in 1978–79. Th e editor of the new community newspaper has asked for (now) historical pictures of the village to publish in the paper. An important task of anthropologists, Hegland believes, is to serve as bridges or translators between cultures—a task now all the more crucial due to the current political relations between the U.S. and Muslim societies. Unfortunately, American offi cials are notoriously uninterested and unwilling to listen to scholars. But we can speak to our students and the general public and hopefully infl uence public opinion and thus try to infl uence the U.S. government indirectly. When R. Loeffl er gave the videotape 8 _ Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl of her wedding and guests 30 years back to the former bride, villagers copied and disseminated the tape widely. Many families wanted to see hundreds of villagers 30 years before and what the traditional weddings were like. A young villager, R. Loeffl er reports, appreciated the publication about his father: ‘For him, his father had come back to life through his ideas as described in the book’ (2004: 592). R. Loeffl er sees ‘acknowledging and giving permanence to the lives and thoughts of people who are unrecognised by the world at large, whose lives and thoughts are passing into oblivion’ (2004: 592) as a central concern of the anthropological endeavour.
Some contributors discussed the ethical implications of the necessity of dealing with governmental demands and restrictions, or of one’s reactions to informants’ disagreeable opinions and actions, or of endangering our friends in the fi eld. Several contributors addressed diff erent aspects of the thorny question of the relevance of ethnographic research goals formulated far away for conditions in Iran generally. While formal consent to be studied by an anthropologist is virtually impossible to obtain in the fi eld in Iran, informal consent, expressed in the willingness to cooperate, does not seem to be much of a problem. Consensual approval from the researched group for our conclusions and writings, however, is so diffi cult an issue that most of us do not face it at all. Our profession’s current demands for transparency and refl exivity emerge several times in the texts, but it seems that they do not get well incorporated into our fi eldwork methodologies.
Several contributors call for more collaboration between Western and Iranian anthropologists. Currently, barriers to collaboration are strong. In addition to the diffi culties of obtaining visas for foreign anthropologists, in-country anthropologists have little opportunity for study, research and attending conferences abroad or even access to anthropological materials published abroad. Since 9/11, travel, cooperation and free exchange of ideas have become much more diffi cult. Th e American government will seize funds that an American tries to send through their bank to Iran for registration and hotel expenses of an anthropological conference to be held in Iran. Th e American government has made it illegal for Americans to assist Iranian scholars in writing and editing. Because of this prohibition, the ISIS was forced to move its journal, Iranian Studies, to England, where the editor can work freely with manuscripts submitted from Iran. Scholars from Iran who wish to attend academic conferences in the U.S. are denied visas. For this reason, the summer 2006 meeting of the ISIS was held in England.
In spite of these political barriers, anthropologists recognise how imperative collaboration is. Th e overwhelming amount of ethnographic work to be done in Iran necessitates collaborative projects, a number of authors in the Iranian Studies special issue argue. Also, collaborative links may facilitate visa and research permits, and more contact and cooperation may revitalise a rather isolated anthropology in Iran. Th ankfully, several fi rst steps are being taken in this direction (see above). Diane Tober has collaborated with Isfahan Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 9 University of Medical Sciences colleagues for the study about family planning among poor Iranian and Afghan families (Tober 2004; Tober, Taghdisi and Jalali 2006). Dr Zahra Sarraf, MD, of Shiraz University School of Medical Sciences, Dr Mohammad Shahbazi, of Jackson State University and Mary Elaine Hegland, of Santa Clara University, are developing a joint project about issues of health and well-being of women and the elderly in Fars Province. Not least the establishment of the anthropological journal Anthropology of the Middle East, by Dr Shahshahani, provides yet another venue for interaction and collaboration between Iranian and foreign anthropologists.
Given the political hindrances, logistical restrictions and ethical considerations, there are problems with the application of all our standard ethnographic methodologies. Quantitative studies based on sampling, surveys, questionnaires and testing require permits and cooperation from assistants and local authorities. Th is requirement poses a formidable logistical challenge. Although several contributors mention the desirability of quantitative empirical research, only one was conducted recently with Iranians, although this was in the U.S. (Higgins 1997a, 1997b, 2004). We included this article to show how diffi cult such research with Iranians is anywhere. All other contributors worked mostly in a qualitative mode. Th e technique of snowballing, in which friends and then their friends recommend the researcher to others, seemed to work best for establishing a research population and for access to informants under sensitive political conditions. Full participant observation requires more time than most of us have in the fi eld under the severely restrictive visa conditions, and is next to impossible in some research situations. Most so-called participant observation actually means that an observer is present in an ethnographic situation and more or less engaged in the activities there, but that the main objective is the observation of these activities. Observation by itself, without the aspiration to participate fully in the activities one wants to observe, is more easily done and used extensively. It opens the problem of the infl uence of the observer on the observed and of interpretation and of representation by the observer, but this self-refl exive stance seems to be more of a theoretical than a methodological consideration in our work in Iran. Together with interviews, observation is a basic research methodology for all scholars represented here. Th e broad, non-specifi c term interview covers everything from the use of a formal questionnaire to unstructured, open-ended talks; from private discussions with give-and-take on a topic chosen by the interviewee to consciousness-raising challenges to local people’s attitudes; from asking pointed questions on a narrow topic to casual discussions with taxi drivers and hanging out with friends. Several applications of this methodology emerge from the articles: interviews produce ‘facts’ in a positivist sense; they produce a lot of anecdotal information in a short time; they prompt people to project and to reveal themselves; in private, searching discussion, they may reveal deeper layers of a worldview: they aff ord insights on specifi c topics as well as on background; they can be done anywhere and with anybody. Interviewing is the most common meth10 _ Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl odology used by ethnographers in Iran. Document sources are mentioned by several contributors. Rarely used now, documentation generally does not exist for the topics anthropologists pursue in Iran. When there is documentation, fi eldworkers may face great diffi culties to get access (Shahbazi 2004). It stands to reason, however, that given the rapidly growing number of literate people and written sources even in remote areas of Iran, if political conditions allow, in the future the study of documents will become as important as observations and interviews for some anthropologists.
In the face of such overwhelming challenges during the several decades since the 1979 Iranian Revolution to conducting standard, time-consuming ethnographic fi eldwork and anthropological participant observation, the great contributions of those few fi eldworkers who have managed to conduct longitudinal ethnography over a long period of time (Beck; Friedl; R. Loeffl er), or at least multiple visits to one research site, become all the more apparent. Th ese researchers have oft en formed intimate friendships, followed families through several generations, shared research projects with informants to an extent and developed overviews of change and transformation. Th eir work raises signifi - cant questions about the transmutability of ‘truth’, replicability of data, variation over time of informant interests and therefore possible research topics, evolution of individual worldviews and change as related to the anthropological endeavour in general. Relationships of long-standing may provide rapport and research-enabling bridges across fi ssures created by political conditions and pressures.

Signs of Hope Since 2000
Since the 2000 panel, a few new publications on Iranian anthropology have emerged.6 In general, we do not yet have publications based on new fi eld research in Iran since then. Agnes G. Loeffl er (forthcoming a) and Roxanne Varzi (2006) both have books expected to come out soon, and Diane Tober is working on a book (forthcoming), as is Setrak Manoukian (forthcoming). Of the special issue authors, Mohammad Shahbazi (2001, 2002), Agnes G. Loeffl er (forthcoming b), Reinhold Loeffl er (forthcoming), Diane Tober (2006), Mary Elaine Hegland (forthcoming a, b, c), Sabine Kalinock (2003a, 2003b) and Arzoo Osanloo (2006) are publishing new articles based on their research discussed in the 2004 special issue. Lois Beck has continued her work with Iran and has edited volumes on Iranian women (Beck 1991, 1998, 2000; Beck and Nashat 2003, 2004). William Beeman has written about Iran and international politics (2003, 2005). In addition to her two fi lms, Ziba Mir-Hosseini has continued to publish on Iranian anthropology (Mir-Hosseini 1999a, 1999b, 2001, 2002a, 2002b, 2003; Mir-Hosseini and Tapper 2006). In Iran—despite the hindrances to fi eldwork for scholars living and working in Iran—Soheila Shahshahani has continued to actively publish (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 11 2003c). Shahshahani has edited a special issue of Nomadic Peoples: Nomads and Nomadism in Post-Revolutionary Iran (2003d) and a volume called Body as Medium of Meaning (2005), in addition to maintaining a high-level profi le attending conferences and serving as offi cer of anthropological associations. Richard Tapper has edited a number of volumes including material about Iranian anthropology (Mir-Hosseini and Tapper 2006; Tapper 2002; Tapper and McLachlan 2003; Tapper and Th ompson 2002). Finally, some anthropologists recently have addressed issues of media, Internet use and globalisation (Balasescu 2003; Khosravi 2000, 2002, 2005; Mir-Hosseini 2002b; Rohani 2001, 2004; Tapper 2002; Varzi 2006).
A few signs give some hope to those interested in Iranian anthropology. An anthropology student based in Iran was able to go to England for his Ph.D. education, and has just published the resulting book: a study of the history of Iran anthropology based on library research and interviewing (Fazeli 2006). An anthropologist of Iranian origin, Roxanne Varzi, received the fi rst Fulbright Fellowship since the 1979 Iranian Revolution for her fi eldwork in Iran (Varzi 2006). A foreign anthropology student, Agnes G. Loeffl er, through great eff ort, was able to stay in Iran long enough to conduct her Ph.D. fi eld research (2004, 2006, forthcoming). Shahnaz Nadjmabadi organised a conference on ‘Anthropological Perspectives on Iran: Th e New Millennium and Beyond’, in Frankfurt, 30 September to 2 October 2004. Her conference report was published in the fi rst issue of Anthropology of the Middle East (2006: 139–40). She is currently editing the volume of conference papers (forthcoming). Th e anthropologists from both Iran and Western countries brought together for this conference plan to develop an Iranian anthropology network and hold more conferences. Soheila Shahshahani organised a double conferences on ‘Cities of Pilgrimage’ and ‘Experience of Cities of Central Asia of Globalisation’ within the Commission on Urban Anthropology of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, in collaboration with the Culture Research Bureau and Institut Francais de la Recherche en Iran (IFRI), in Tehran, 19 to 21 December 2005. Shahshahani is editing the volume of conference papers (forthcoming). Shahshahani has established and is editing a new journal called Culture and Human Being (published in Persian), and this new journal published in English and French, Anthropology of the Middle East. Within the Culture Research Bureau, she has established the Contemporary Anthropology programme where she has held monthly lectures since autumn 2004. Although there is as yet no formal Ph.D. programme in Iran, several Ph.D. students have written dissertations with an anthropological perspective. For example, ‘Dr Alireza Qobadi wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Iranian folklore with an anthropological approach and methodology. Dr Ebrahim Fayazbakhsh received his Ph.D. from Tehran University with a dissertation on an anthropological subject using an anthropological approach and methodology.’7 Another exciting development is that the Department of Anthropology of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tehran has recently approved 12 _ Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl a Ph.D. programme in anthropology. Th is programme still needs the approval of several committees at the University of Tehran and of the Ministry of Higher Education. However, Professor Nasser Fakouhi hopes that Ph.D. students will be admitted at the University of Tehran within a year or two. One of the most encouraging sign of a potential revival of Iranian anthropology is the new generation of scholars of Iranian descent now working in Iranian ethnography. Th rough attending several conferences of the Middle East Studies Association, ISIS and American Anthropological Association, as well as the conferences organised in 2004 by Shahnaz Nadjmabadi and in 2005 by Soheila Shahshahani, and through e-mail and Web eff orts we learned about a number of other recent Ph.D.’s or Ph.D. students of Iranian background, who aft er schooling in the countries where they grew up, have gone to Iran for fi eldwork. Th ese individuals, armed with Iranian passports, native-level Persian language ability, helpful relatives in Iran, in-depth knowledge of the history of anthropological theory, including more recent approaches and methodologies, and a deep commitment to understanding their own cultural heritage, are well positioned to make signifi cant and exciting contributions to the anthropology of Iran.8 Hopefully, the 2000 ISIS panel and the subsequent 2004 Iranian Studies special issue, along with other recent initiatives will be just the beginning of many eff orts to take stock of the current status of Iranian anthropological fi eld research, form connections among Iranian anthropologists, and collectively fi nd ways to encourage and support anthropologists’ fi eldwork in Iran. One hopes also for collections of articles by Iranian origin anthropologists living and working abroad, Iranian anthropologists living and working inside Iran, Iran anthropologists living and working in various European countries, volumes about the work of those anthropologists who publish in Persian, French, German and more. In particular, a volume of articles about research methods used by anthropologists conducting fi eldwork among emigrant Iranians would be useful, as would a volume of methodology articles by anthropological fi lmmakers (Haeri 2001; Longinotto and Mir-Hosseini 1998, 2001). Given the severely diffi cult political conditions, the Iranian Studies special issue and this article have focused primarily on the infl uences of international, national, local-level and interpersonal political pressures on fi eldwork. Hopefully, other publications can consider other infl uences and issues related to fi eldwork methodologies.

Reading over the Iranian Studies special issue articles reminds one of the centrality of fi eldwork to the anthropological enterprise and yet the formidable challenges that attempting fi eldwork can present to the ethnographer. So much of what forms the anthropological experience and thus infl uences the thePolitical Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran _ 13 matic focus, data collecting process and then the resulting data and fi ndings of the research happens in the fi eld, in the encounter between the anthropologist and the people whose lives, worldviews and cultures she hopes to understand. To the encounter and social experience are brought the humanity and uniqueness of the individuals, as well as their culturally infl uenced attitudes and behaviours, and oft en, unfortunately, the constraints and pressures of international, national, local and interpersonal politics. One wonders at the astuteness, thoughtfulness, generosity, courage, philosophical bents, unique histories and persons, and openness of the companions and teachers of the anthropologists. One also wonders at the persistence, dedication, fl exibility, unique gift s of listening and rapport, and special self-trained abilities of the anthropologists. Reading over the documentation of this richness gives us some idea about what anthropologists are privileged to experience and learn. Th e gift of gaining access to amazing individuals and their lives and views, and the reward of knowing that one’s individual character, skills and determination are partly to be credited for sharing such precious material seem more than adequate recompense for time, eff ort and the frustration of politically impinged anthropological fi eldwork.
Mary Elaine Hegland teaches in the Anthropology Department and Women and Gender Studies at Santa Clara University in California. She has published about politics, Shi’a rituals and revolution in village Iran; women, politics and Shi’a rituals in Iran and Peshawar; and Iranian grandparents in the U.S. Her current research interests are aging and the elderly in Iran and among Iranian Americans in the U.S.; social change, urbanisation and modernisation in an Iranian village; and women’s education, identity and family relations in the village of Aliabad and nearby Shiraz in Iran.
Erika Friedl, Professor Emerita in Anthropology at Western Michigan University, has conducted seven years of ethnographic research in Iran since 1965, most recently in 2006, concentrating on a tribal area in Southwest Iran. Based on her fi eldwork in Iran, Friedl has published many articles on women and gender, folklore and children; several monographs; co-edited volumes; and two books: Women of Deh Koh (1991) and Children of Deh Koh (1997).
1. For more about anthropology, methods and fi eldwork in Iran, see not only the special issue of Iranian Studies discussed in this article, but also Fazeli 2006; Friedl 2004a; Mir-Hosseini 2002b; Naderi 1882; Nadjmabadi forthcoming; Razavi 1993; Shahbazi 2003; Shahshahani 1986 and forthcoming.
2. See, for example, Haeri 2001a and Hoodfar 1999, 2003. 3. See, for example, Akcapar 2006; Bauer 1991, 2000; Hegland 1999a, 1999b, 2006a, 2006b; Hegland and Zahedi 1998; Higgins 1997a, 1997b, 2004; Kamalkhani 1988, 1991, 1994, 2001; Khosravi 1997, 1999; Mobashir 2003; Spellman 2004. 4. In the 1950s and 1960s, Richard Tapper points out fi eldworkers wishing to conduct research in Iran faced similar obstacles. It was only during the 1970s that fi eld research opportunities and conditions improved greatly, and Iranian anthropology began to fl ourish (Tapper, personal communication, 31 May 2006). 5. For those interested in gender issues in fi eldwork methodology, see the 2004 Iranian Studies special issue and also the forthcoming volume, Sex, Age and Nationality in Fieldwork Relations, edited by Dorothee Dussy and Agnes Jeanjean. 6. Some of the other new publications based on anthropological fi eldwork in Iran are: Amir-Moez 2002; Friedl 2004a; Hamdhaidari and Wright 2001; Kalinock 2003a, 2003b; Osanloo 2006; Shahbazi 2001, 2002; Shahsahani 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2003c; Torab 2002, 2005. Shahla Haeri has produced Mrs. President: Women and Political Leadership in Iran (2001), a 46-minute fi lm, distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences (www.fi lms.com, 2002). Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini have produced a second fi lm, Runaway (2001), an 87-minute fi lm to add to their acclaimed Divorce Iranian Style (1998), an 80-minute fi lm, both distributed by Women Make Movies. 7. E-mail communication from Nematollah Fazeli, 10 November 2006. 8. See, for example, Adelkhah 2000; Amir-Moez 2002; Erami 2003, 2004; Kamalkhani 1994a, 1996a, 1998a, 1998b; Khosravi 1996, 2005; Khosronejad 2006a, 2006b; Lowe and Tremayne 2001; Manoukian 1996, 2004, 2005, forthcoming; Osanloo 2006; Rouhani 2001; Sabahi 2001, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c, 2005; Shahbazi 2001, 2002; Torab 1996, 2002, 2005; Tremayne 2001, 2004a, 2004b, 2005, 2006; Varzi 2006. (I am grateful to Richard Tapper for providing the names of several of these scholars.)


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