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This chapter is a political memoir on political activism in the late 1960s, in a small town of Golpayegan. The story of political activism and intellectual life in a small town illuminates the prerevolutionary period in Iran. Similarities link political and cultural sensibilities in the modernizing capital and a “religious” town such as Golpayegan. Political Islamism or the many streams of Marxism were formed in Golpayegan through the lived experience of ordinary people. Even in the late 1960s, young high school students passionately embraced transnational experiences through books, newspapers, magazines, and the study of such foreign languages as Arabic. Other institutional mediums included schooling, transnational religious exchanges, and technology (radio and cassettes recordings). Golpayegan was a fertile zone of transnational and transregional exchange. While living in Golpayegan, the author was fascinated by the outside world. Its cultural trappings were more accessible than one might think. The author loved listening to foreign radio, in English or Arabic and Farsi, through stations based in East Berlin, Baghdad, and Peking. He also listened to BBC in Persian and read, whenever possible, Time Magazine and Newsweek.
The men and women that made the 1979 Iranian Revolution were of their time and place. We could not expect them to be otherwise, short of certain arguments that they were “guided by the eternal.” As researchers, we face a similar predicament of spatial and temporal specificity. Yet, neither time nor space are isolated; they become meaningful analytical categories when “made” in relation to larger social processes interconnecting times and places.
This chapter argues that this volume furnishes a nuanced narrative of the 1979 revolution. The authors explain the revolution within the historic context of two crucial decades leading to the demise of the old regime. This juncture reveals diverse global inspirations driving the revolution. The existing scholarly literature on the Iranian Revolution falls short of fully appreciating the contemporaneity of the revolution as an experience for the Iranians. That is, the Iranian Revolution as a “transnational” social and political event, as experienced by Iranians. The contemporaneity and transnational quality of the experience embed the revolution in the preceding two decades of widespread cultural transfiguration at every social level, in the “quiet revolution.” The “quiet revolution” itself cannot be understood except in terms of a circulatory system of flows of people and ideas between Iran, the West, the Middle East, and Asia, and other countries like the Soviet Union and those in Latin America.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 not only had an impact on regional and international affairs, but was made possible by the world and time in which it unfolded. This multi-disciplinary volume presents this revolution within its transnational and global contexts. Moving deftly from the personal to the global and from the provincial to the national, it draws attention to the multiplicity of spaces of the revolution such as streets, schools, prisons, personal lives, and histories such as the Cold War and Global 1960s and 70s. With a broad range of approaches, Global 1979 conceives of the Iranian Revolution not as exceptional or anachronistic, but as an uprising constituted by multiple, interwoven geographies and histories, which disrupt static and bounded notions of the local, national, regional, and global.