This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
This paper examines changing relationships of Iranian men to family and domesticity in the era of modernity through readings of the personal narratives about three Iranian men whose lives span the development of modernity in Iran. While there are many accounts of the ‘modernising’ of Iranian public spheres, and of the public rhetoric of masculinity, family and domesticity within that process, little attention has been given to family and domestic activities and relationships in the formation of ‘modern’ Iranian masculinities. Analysis of life narratives of a civil servant, Abdullah Mostowfi (1876-1952), a writer/activist, Jalal Al-e Ahmad (1923-1969),and a religious specialist“‘AliHashemi” (1943-?) reveals genealogies and transformations of masculinity among urban educated Iranian men over a century. Foregrounding their roles as husbands, sons, brothers, and heads of households, and the ‘domestic’ setting where such roles were formed and enacted, the paper explores the constitutive role of ‘domestic’ experiences in changing ‘public’ performances of masculinity. Mostowfi’s account of growing from a child in a hereditary bureaucratic family into a suit wearing civil servant has significant and unexplored family and household dimensions; Al-e Ahmad’s reflections on youth, marriage, and sexual /reproductive anxieties reveal similarly unexplored aspects of his self-presentation as a public intellectual; the account of the life of an anonymised individual called “ ‘Ali Hashemi” as a religious specialist between the 1950s and the 1970s seems to exclude his ‘home’ life, but in fact shows its contribution to his political, professional, and personal development. Negotiations of intimacy and authority among household and kin were integral to these men’s formative and performative repertoire, blending reliance on established ‘patriarchal’ practices with innovations in those practices.
By placing family and domesticity at the centre of the analysis the paper engages with ongoing debates about distinctions and overlaps between ‘home’ and ‘outside’. It probes the view that Iranian cultural practice has fought shy of depicting or revealing personal aspects of individual lives. It suggests that the personae evolved by educated urban Iranian men between the 1880s and the1970s involved publicly enacted roles which rested on deep foundations in the home, refashioning those foundations while also relying on them. Arguing for the importance of interaction between the ‘domestic’ and the ‘non-domestic’, and not just of the distinction between them, the discussion emphasises how connections between household and marital power, personal intimacy, and masculinity underpinned modern public life.