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From Tobacco Revolt to Youth Rebellion: A Social History of the Cigarette in Iran

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj*
Affiliation:
Iran Tobacco Research Group.

Abstract

Focusing on the cultural influence of the cigarette, this paper synthesizes a wide range of evidence to argue that the cigarette was a fundamental primer for Iran's encounter with modernity, especially as understood in the context of western influence. Applying the dramaturgical theories of sociologist Erving Goffman, it is argued that the cigarette is an instantiation of the “sign-equipment” of modernization used to refashion the identity and subjectivity of Iranian men and women. This refashioning has occurred in three distinct periods. 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 (1930–70), cigarettes were leveraged by Iranians who wished to be seen as upwardly mobile. 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 as experimentation occurs at increasingly young ages.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The International Society for Iranian Studies 2014

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