Background and Scope of the Project

Inside the Islamic Republic

The Iranian Revolution was one of the most important events to take place in the Middle East within the past fifty years. The revolution completely transformed one of the region’s largest and most influential countries, and had far-reaching implications for both Iran’s neighbors as well as the world at large. From its earliest post-revolutionary years, scholars and analysts have regularly puzzled over the Islamic Republic, its consequences for Iranian society and history, and its direction and evolution. Today, more than thirty years of the revolution, the resilience of the Islamic Republic has been clearly demonstrated. The thirtieth anniversary has also highlighted the fact that there is a critical need for a more nuanced understanding of the regime’s endurance, and for in-depth scrutiny of the multi-faceted nature of contemporary Iranian society. Over the course of the past thirty years there have been significant and meaningful social, economic, and political transformations across the spectrum of the state and its society. It is these changes which need to be carefully studied if one is looking for a comprehensive understanding of contemporary Iran.

Much scholarly attention has been devoted to Iranian foreign and regional policies, its geopolitical and geostrategic significance, its security and defense strategies, and to its ideological intransience. Political analysts and experts have undertaken intense efforts to interpret the maneuvers and machinations of Iran’s leadership, and a regular bombardment of new policy papers provide detailed assessments of the regime’s purported regional and international agendas, and the threats that these pose to the international order. Much current analytic focus is given to Iran’s ruling clerical establishment, its controversial nuclear program, and its supposed ambition to assert regional hegemony over its neighbors. Iranian foreign policy behavior is consistently presented as a de facto threat to its neighbors and to the world at large. Against this backdrop of heightened global interest in Iran’s international relations, embedded within myopic invective and a security-driven discourse, explorations of Iran’s domestic or internal functioning are often relegated to secondary status.

Academic efforts examining domestic conditions in Iran have often focused particularly on the issues of political succession, the rivalry amongst competing political stake-holders and factions, the role of different state actors, the success or failure of various state policies, and the potential for reform. With the contested 2009 elections and the protest movements that followed, international attention was once again drawn to studying domestic political developments in Iran, for the most part to assess the extent of socio-political fissures within the state, and the potential for the regime to be severely threatened through public dissent. Despite the ongoing fascination with Iran in both policy and academic circles, there are few in-depth studies of social and cultural developments within the country.

A few recent efforts have been undertaken by scholars to engage in in-depth research on domestic development within Iran. In line with this body of nascent scholarship, CIRS is launching a new, empirically grounded research initiative aimed at studying the variety of changes and developments currently underway in Iranian society. Social Change in Post-Khomeini Iran will critically examine some of the most important topics within contemporary Iran, focusing on its social, cultural, economic, and political domains. Through this multi-disciplinary, empirically-based research initiative, our goal is to present a comprehensive study of contemporary Iranian society. Some of the areas of exploration include:

  • Iran Today: Reflecting on a Revolution in its Mid-Thirties
  • Modernity and the State
  • Manning the State: The Islamic Republic’s New Power Elite
  • From Khomeini to Khamenei: The Changing Institutions of the Velayat e Faqih
  • Intellectual Trends in Post-Khomeini Iran
  • The Theory and Practice of Human Rights in Iran
  • The Social and Political Functions of Mosques
  • What are Iranians Thinking? Public Opinion and Public Opinion Survey Iran
  • Urbanization since the 1979 Revolution
  • Pollution and the Environmental Degradation in Iranian Megacities
  • The State of Higher Education
  • The State and Social Services for War Veterans and the Handicapped
  • Business and Enterprise Development in Iran Today
  • Rural and Urban Poor in Contemporary Iran
  • Population Growth and the Youth Bulge
  • Women and the Law in Post-Khomeini Iran
  • Iranian Youth Politics and Subculture
  • Western Sanctions, Domestic Industry, and Consumption in Iran
  • Iran’s Economic Stakeholders: The Power and Politics of the Bonyads
  • Post-Revolutionary Literature
  • Drug Use and Addiction in Contemporary Iran
  • The Politics of Healthcare and Health Policy
  • The Visual Arts
  • Social Media and Communications Technology
  • Iranian Film and Iranian Identity
  • Adjusting and Connecting to the Motherland: The Iranian Diaspora Abroad  

Article by Zahra Babar, Assistant Director of Research at CIRS