During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), numerous commentators and journalists wrote about the conflict that wreaked havoc on the two neighboring countries. Most observers emphasized the length and violence of the twentieth century’s longest conventional war. It has since inspired a new generation of scholars to investigate the visual and material culture that reshaped Iranian society as it responded to the historical exigencies of the war. Each presenter approaches the eight years during which the conflict raged as a distinct era that proffered a culture of its own, one that transformed the meaning of Iran and being Iranian. Within the last decade, there have been few but significant works on the subject, including those by Dina Khoury, Amatzia Baram, and Roxanne Varzi. This panel contributes to this surge of interest in the topic by exploring new and exciting directions the study of the conflict may take in the realms of diaspora studies, nationalism, modernity and technology, cultural history, and media studies.
The first panelist analyzes the exile of Iraq’s so-called Persians in order to prove that Iran forewent its responsibility to this community due to its desire to produce a more inclusivist nation-state model that integrated its Khuzestani Arabs. Just as the Islamic Republic approached nationalism radically differently because of the war, the regime also reconsidered its relationship to modernity. The second panelist examines the Islamic Republic’s depictions of Iraq’s comparatively advanced technology in order to demonstrate its use in portraying Iran as a victim of modernity’s uniquely destructive weaponry. The Islamic Republic’s interpretation of technology thus created an entirely new narrative of Iran’s relationship to modernity. The third presentation on the dissemination of Film Farsi investigates the new life breathed into the genre following the descent of Iranian media into morbid and violent depictions of war. Iranians transformed this censored entertainment to artifacts of a longed-for past, causing many to upload the films on the Internet and thus globalize the Film Farsi genre. The final panelist continues to interrogate the use of the Internet and argues digital media concerning the Iran-Iraq War has revolutionized its remembrance and commemorization.