On 22 November 2020, Jadaliyya’s Iran Page published an article titled “Mourners in Common: Qassem Soleimani, Mohammad Reza Shajarian, and the ‘Pattern’ of Iranian Culture.” On 25 November, the page editors decided to temporarily take down the article (click here for PDF) until it could be paired with a range of responses that we are currently processing. We want this to be an inclusive process and welcome others to participate by submitting their responses in addition to giving the author an opportunity to weigh in. Our decision stems from a recognition that it was a mistake to publish the article in its current form, but that once published it is not acceptable to permanently retract it.
Our intention in publishing “Mourners in Common,” which like most of our content is an unsolicited submission, was to feature ethnographic research about the popular mourning of a pillar of the Iranian state (Soleimani) and one of its recent stalwart critics (Shajarian). How can we make sense of these seemingly counterintuitive overlaps when and where they existed? We believe this is an important question. As editors, we should have asked the author to address a number of issues. In its current form, “Mourners in Common” makes generalizations about Iranians and Iranian culture on the basis of an insufficiently rigorous methodology and evidence. It also uncritically reproduces a sentiment of patriarchal nationalism as the unifying force of Iranian culture. In addition, there was no mention of those who did not grieve and perhaps celebrated Soleimani’s death, which was a result of a US government assassination. Furthermore, the article did not feature an adequate discussion of power discrepancies between the two figures in question.
The political and intellectual landscape among Iranians, inside and outside of Iran, is hyperpolarized around several axes. One axis lies between those for whom the main obstacle to the freedom and self-determination of Iranians is domestic authoritarianism and those for whom the primary culprit is US imperialism. We oppose both domestic authoritarianism and US imperialism, as evidenced in our mission statement and the record of our page. Another site of polarization is the division between the diaspora and those living in Iran. A third posits a hard division between secularism and Islam. These are just a few among many examples. Our objective is to create a space for inquiry that transcends the polarization plaguing discourse about Iran, not to represent or denounce both sides in the interest of value-neutrality. We stand together in the belief that these polarities preclude important questions. We are committed to an analysis of power relations, a critique of domination along multiple registers, and a capacious and multi-faceted understanding of the regions and peoples to which the Iran Page is dedicated.
Update — 14 December 2020:
- The original article has been restored as full and can be accessed at the original URL.
- We have published two responses to the original article, which can be accessed here and here.
- No other submissions were received, with the exception of one in which the author did not reply when provided feedback (as all submissions are).