Iranian Networking in Transition

It goes without saying that the latest developments in communication technology and transportation systems brought about changes in our sense of “space,” “time,” and social imaginaries. Our panel tries to clarify how the recent development in “connectivity” among Iranians caused changes in their mentality, social behavior, social movements and identity. Actually, the significance of family, kinship, or neighbours, which constituted the dominant network in Iranians' social life, came to be redefined, or gained new aspects. Aside from conventional networking, numerous NGOs have emerged as a result of new modes of connectivity, at the same time promoting further connectivity. It may not be an exaggeration to say that all social movements in Iran, whether prompted by civil motives or by governmental measures, as well as all activities of semi-governmental groups, are under the influence of the new connectivity. Rapid flows of information tend to stimulate people to seek more opportunities for social activities, to obtain more consumer goods, and to yearn for going abroad, as well.
The papers in our panel are based on recent fieldwork conducted in Iran or on interviews with Iranians living abroad.
The first paper will focus on NGOs for / of disabled people, who have less accessibility to information due to their impairments. The roles of NGOs will be examined, through their means of information provision and communication.
The second will explain the impact of emotion on the self among Iranian youth, in the context of the religious and ideological dictates of the Iranian state. The presentation focuses on cultural-psychological layers of Iranian society to comprehend the real young selves who are called ‘cultural criminals’ by the Islamic government.
The third paper will look at how the character of kinship relations changed for women after the introduction of cell phones in Kohgiluye va Boirahmad Province, where Lor and Turkish tribes have been the majority, and where tribal identity is well preserved.

The convenor will give the concluding remarks.

The organizing of this panel and the participation in the conference of the first three presenters, the panel Convenor and the Chairperson, were supported by a Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research(Kakenhi) of the Japan Society for Promotion of Sciences(JSPS).


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After enactment of ‘Comprehensive Law to Support Disabled People’s Rights’ (Qanun-e Jame’-e Hemayat az Hoquq-e Ma’alulin 2004:1383), many local NGOs for / of disabled people openly discuss the lives of disabled people, especially problems of limited accessibility to social resources such as mobility in living environments, transportation, job opportunities, education, leisure and information. They use their websites and other Internet media (e.g. youtube) effectively, to show what kinds of social barriers exist in Iranian society. Through blogs and e-mails, they provide information for disabled people and create networks among disabled people. Moreover, some of the NGOs, which offer direct services for disabled people, prepare opportunities for meeting people with the same kind of impairments. These might encourage disabled people to have collective actions for their Rights. However, many disabled people living in Iran have less accessibility to the Internet due to their impairments, poor economical situation or restrictions by family members. Therefore, it could be presumed that disabled people in Iran are less privileged in the society which enjoys the development in communication technology and transportation systems. This paper focuses on local NGOs for / of disabled people, and examines the roles of NGOs through their means of information provision and communications. A field research, including interviews with core members of related NGOs and disabled people in Tehran and Karaj, will be conducted in 2013. Additionally, websites of local NGOs for / of disabled people will be analyzed, as well as their programs such as face-to-face meetings, seminars and home visits, in terms of creating a network among disabled people.

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The ideological directions of the Islamic Republic have decisively affected young Iranians' identities and self-representations. The institutional adoption of Sharia (the Islamic law) was diffused to the private sphere, and thus the dichotomy of public and private life in Iran was further exacerbated. Based on an ethnographic research study on youth in an affluent neighborhood in Tehran, I focused on the privileged youths who are well-educated and mostly enjoy consuming globalized cosmopolitan culture. This generation attempts to make their own public space by collectively enjoying illegal popular culture and communicating with the outside world through new media and technology in private spaces. Moreover, they commit cultural crimes like holding house parties and hanging out with their boyfriends or girlfriends.
However, I argue that the private self of young Iranians also reflects the ideal public self and social values. The young generation has difficulties in expressing their emotions both publically and privately. Even though the sphere of the family is rather secular, it relies on traditional values and ethos to raise and discipline their children. Therefore, the emotion of love in Iran is thrilling but dangerous. Expressing love is prohibited in the public sphere, but dating is a secret even within the family.
The state has tried to control Iranian youths’ inner selves and emotions: Consequently, the dominant ideology has been unwittingly internalized by them, and their own spaces have become representative of the public order imposed by the state. The communication of emotions, the style of self-presentation and the relationship with family are affected by the social structure and simultaneously enforce the dominant discourses in private. This younger generation partially follows the hypocritical and ambivalent disposition of the society which they criticize strongly. As the Islamic Republic emphasizes the Islamic discourse and high moral values, individuals wear a mask which is appropriate to the ideological order even in ‘their own world’

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This paper, based on 4 months’ field work in Iran through 2012-2013, presents kinship’s changes in Kohgiluye va Boirahmad Province where I have been conducting research since 1994. This province has been a Lor and Turkish tribal area until 1960’s, and most of the people still keep still their iidentity and their social relations concentrated on the kin. The introduction of the new communication technology in this province, in particular the cell phone, is changing the circulation of information as well as the character of kinships. That has surely been a social phenomenon for the last 5 years now: the women reinforce their solidarity with this instrument and have a greater influence on their family affairs.