Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism
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 Nouvel Observateur. 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.
A deeply mistaken account of Foucault's interpretation of Iran
By Todd May - June 22, 2005
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... read more
An Important Contribution to Critical Theory
By John Sanbonmatsu - June 30, 2005
"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... read more
Great at pointing out Foucault's porblematic political turn
By Laurie Louise Rojas - January 9, 2007
It is an absolute introduction to understanding the events that shaped the Iranian Revolution (as a revolution from the Right) and the relationship that Foucault's arguments have to international political sphere.
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