This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.
In light of the incredible impact cigarette smoking has had on Iranian public health, this paper seeks to achieve a sharper understanding of the significance of smoking in Iran. Focusing on the cultural influence of the cigarette, this study will seek to synthesize a wide range of evidence in order to make the central argument that the cigarette was a fundamental primer for Iran’s encounter with modernity, especially as understood in context of European influence. Applying the dramaturgical theories of eminent sociologist Erving Goffman, we establish that the cigarette was a crucial example of the "sign-equipment" used to refashion the identity and subjectivity of Iranian men and women, drawing them into habitual behaviors that would alter the traditional patterns of social, economic and political ordering. The sociocultural significance of the cigarette has evolved over three distinct periods in Iranian history, which roughly correspond to the three pivotal population cohorts of Iran’s growing smoking prevalence. In the first period (1860-1930), cigarette smoking was a habit adopted by the Persian elite in an attempt to mediate the encounter with European colonial figures. In the second period (1930-1970), the cultural symbolism of cigarettes was leveraged by Iranians who wished to be seen as upwardly mobile with their transforming society. In the final and contemporary period (1970-present), cigarettes have become ubiquitous among the adult population, but smoking itself has become the act of youth rebellion sine qua non as experimentation occurs at increasingly young ages.While it may be difficult to establish a kind of strict causality for the role of the cigarette in fashioning the modern Iranian subject, it ought to be emphasized that the cigarettes were the first article of the European modernity that was widely consumed, and its iconicity and integration into daily life goes beyond any machine or marvel of modernity that was to follow in its wake. The cigarette permeates the cultural imagery of Iran: in film, fiction, poetry and in the routines of daily life. By offering Iranians a powerful means to signal their progressive attitudes, their upward mobility, and their rebellious natures at different junctures in Iranian history, the cigarette came to encapsulate the complex circumstances of Iran’s “cultural schizophrenia,” struggling to define itself as a thoroughly modern nation still rooted to its long history.