Transcript: Janet Afary, Kevin B. Anderson on The Seductions of Islamism | Feb 25, 2006

Fast clips show the exterior of the McMaster Museum of Art as Kevin B. Anderson speaks in off.

He says A GREAT
THINKER ONCE WROTE THAT ALL
HISTORY IS CONTEMPORARY HISTORY.
THAT WAS KARL MARX, AND SO OUR
BOOK IS CERTAINLY IN PART ABOUT
THE CHALLENGE OF RADICAL
ISLAMISM OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS
SINCE THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION,
NOT ONLY AS A MOVEMENT, BUT AS
AN IDEOLOGY.

Now Kevin appears standing behind a wooden lectern in a dimly-lit auditorium. He's in his fifties, with short gray hair and a moustache. He's wearing a gray suit, striped shirt, and dark blue tie.

He continues
THERE'S A DANGER OF THOSE WHO
OPPOSE WESTERN GLOBALIZATION,
WESTERN HEGEMONY, WESTERN
IMPERIALISM, WHATEVER YOU WANT
TO CALL IT, OR MAYBE THOSE ARE
SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT THINGS IN
SOME PEOPLE'S EYES.
THOSE WHO OPPOSE THAT, THOSE
WHO DEMONSTRATE AGAINST IT,
THOSE WHO WRITE CRITICAL ESSAYS
ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THAT,
THOSE WHO OPPOSE IT IN SUCH A
WAY THAT IT TURNS A BLIND EYE
TOWARD NON-WESTERN, PRE-MODERN
AND TRADITIONALIST FORMS OF
OPPRESSION, THAT'S A DANGER.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Kevin B. Anderson. Purdue University. Co-author 'Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.' McMaster University. November 14, 2005."

Kevin continues IF A PRO-
U.S. REGIME HAD PULLED DOWN
SOME THOUSAND YEAR OLD BUDDHIST
STATUES AND BLOWN THEM APART,
IN 2001, I THINK THERE WOULD
HAVE BEEN A LOT MORE PROTESTS
ON THE PART OF THE LEFT WING
PROGRESSIVE INTELLECTUALS THAN
THERE WAS WHEN THE TALIBAN
REGIME DID THAT, AND THE U.S.
AND POWERS SIMILAR TO THE U.S.
IMMEDIATELY DENOUNCED THAT.
A SIMILAR
THING OF COURSE, HAPPENED WITH
THE IRANIAN CLERICS WHEN THEY
CAME TO POWER AND SEIZED--
ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SEIZED THE
U.S. EMBASSY, EMBASSY OF THE
GREAT SATAN, AS IT WAS CALLED.
HINDU REVIVALISTS IN INDIA
UM...
THAT'S ANOTHER GROUP THAT HAS A
CERTAINLY MODERN ORGANISATIONAL
STRUCTURES, BUT A
TRADITIONALIST IDEOLOGY AND
SOCIAL AGENDA IN SOME RESPECTS.
ALL THE MOVEMENTS THAT I'VE
JUST NAMED, THE TALIBAN, THE
IRANIAN CLERICS, THE HINDU
REVIVALISTS, THEIR POLITICS AND
IDEOLOGY ARE ACTUALLY MORE
SIMILAR TO THE NATIONAL FRONT
IN FRANCE, AND GROUPS LIKE
THAT, THAN THEY ARE TO THE
PROGRESSIVE LEFT, BUT THE
PROGRESSIVE LEFT OFTEN REMAINS
SILENT, OR RELATIVELY SPEAKING,
SILENT ABOUT THOSE GROUPS AND
THEIR ACTIVITIES.

Now music plays as Kevin's book appears on screen briefly. The cover features a drawing of Michel Foucault seen in profile.

Then, Janet Afary appears giving a lecture.
A caption reads "Janet Afary. Purdue University. Co-author 'Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.'"
Janet is in her fifties, with short curly chestnut hair. She's wearing glasses and a pink tailored suit.

She says ENTERS NOW THE
FRENCH PHILOSOPHER, MICHEL
FOUCAULT.
POST STRUCTURALIST PHILOSOPHER
MICHEL FOUCAULT IS WELL KNOWN
FOR HIS CRITIQUES OF VARIOUS
MODERN SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS,
MOST NOTABLY PSYCHIATRY,
MEDICINE AND THE PRISON SYSTEM,
AND ALSO FOR HIS IDEAS ON THE
HISTORY OF SEXUALITY.

A black and white portrait picture of a smiling Foucault appears briefly.

Janet continues ALTHOUGH HE
DIED IN 1984, FOUCAULT REMAINS
THE MOST IMPORTANT CRITIC OF
MODERNITY AND THE MOST
CELEBRATED, I WOULD SAY, ON
COLLEGE CAMPUSES TODAY.
I HAVE NUMEROUS STUDENTS, FOR
EXAMPLE, WRITING DISSERTATIONS
ON MICHEL FOUCAULT.
FOUCAULT TRAVELLED TO IRAN IN
1978 AND WROTE COPIOUSLY ON THE
REVOLUTION, AND ESPECIALLY THE
ISLAMIST WING OF THE MOVEMENT,
WHOSE GOAL WAS TO GROUND
IRANIAN CULTURAL IDENTITY ON AN
EXCLUSIONARY RELIGIOUS
FOUNDATION OF SHI'A BELIEFS AND
PRACTICES.
THESE ESSAYS OF FOUCAULT ARE
HIS MOST LENGTHY SET OF
WRITINGS ON ANY NON-WESTERN
SOCIETY AND ONE OF THE MAJOR
POLITICAL ENGAGEMENTS OF HIS
LIFE.
THESE AND SUBSEQUENT WRITINGS
ON EARLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
CAN ACTUALLY PROVIDE US, WE
ARGUE, KEVIN AND I, KEVIN
ANDERSON AND I, CAN ACTUALLY
PROVIDE US WITH A VERY HELPFUL
WAY OF UNDERSTANDING THE
REVOLUTIONARY PHENOMENON IN
IRAN AND THE ISLAMIST
UTILISATION OF SHI'A NARRATIVES
AND RITUALS OF PRACTICES.
NOW THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE,
FOUCAULT, IN THE TRADITION OF
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, AND
GEORGES BATTAILLE, HAD EMBRACED
THE ORDERS TO PUSH THE LIMITS
OF RATIONALITY AND HE WROTE
WITH GREAT PASSION IN DEFENCE
OF IRRATIONALITIES THAT BROKE
NEW BOUNDARIES.
IN 1978, FOUCAULT FOUND SUCH
TRANSVERSIVE POWERS IN MILLIONS
OF IRANIANS WHO RISKED DEATH IN
THE COURSE OF THE IRANIAN
REVOLUTION.
FOUCAULT KNEW THAT SUCH LIMIT
EXPERIENCES COULD LEAD TO NEW
FORMS OF CREATIVITY AND HE
PASSIONATELY THREW IN HIS
SUPPORT.
THIS WAS HIS ONLY FIRST HAND
EXPERIENCE OF REVOLUTION AND IT
LED TO HIS MOST EXTENSIVE SET
OF WRITINGS ON A NON-WESTERN
SOCIETY.
HE TRAVELLED FIRST TO IRAN IN
1978.
THE THEN MET WITH KHOMEINI IN
PARIS, WHEN KHOMEINI WAS IN
EXILE IN OCTOBER, THEN HE WENT
BACK TO IRAN AND TRAVELLED FOR
A SECOND TIME, WHERE HE MET
WITH A NUMBER OF LEADERS OF THE
REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT.
THIS IS A TIME WHEN THE
REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT IN IRAN
AGAINST THE SHAH WAS REACHING
ITS ZENITH.
DURING HIS TRIPS FOUCAULT WAS
COMMISSIONED AS A SPECIAL
CORRESPONDENT FOR THE LEADING
ITALIAN JOURNAL,
Corriere DELLA SERA,
AND HIS
ARTICLES APPEARED ON PAGE ONE.
FOUCAULT'S INTEREST IN THE
IRANIAN REVOLUTION WAS MUCH
MORE THAN A JOURNALISTIC
CURIOSITY.
HIS EARLIER WORK HAS SHOWN A
CONSISTENT, THOUGH SUBTLE
AFFINITY FOR THE ORIENT, AND
THE MORE TRADITIONAL SOCIAL
NORMS OF THE EAST AS WELL AS
MESSIANIC PREOCCUPATIONS WITH
EASTERN THOUGHT.
HIS ORIENT, THOUGH, SEEMS TO
INCLUDE MUCH MORE THAN WHAT WE
WOULD CONSIDER THE ORIENT.
IT INCLUDED THE GRECO-ROMAN
WORLD, AS WELL AS THE MODERN
EASTERN ONE.
SINCE THE CONTRAST HE DREW WAS
PRIMARILY BETWEEN TRADITIONAL
SOCIAL RELATIONS AND MODERN
ONES, RATHER THAN EAST AND
WEST.
A SOMEWHAT RELATED TAXONOMY
APPEARS IN NIETZSCHE'S
GENEALOGY OF MORALS.
WHERE HE INCLUDED, NIETZSCHE,
THAT IS, IN HIS CATEGORY OF
KNOWABLE RACES, A NUMBER OF
QUITE DIVERSE PRE-MODERN
SOCIETIES.
"ONE CANNOT FAIL TO SEE,"
NIETZSCHE WROTE, "AT THE BOTTOM
OF ALL THESE NOBLE RACES, THE
BEAST OF PREY, THE SPLENDID
BLONDE BEAST PROWLING AROUND
AVIDLY IN SEARCH OF SPOIL AND
VICTORY.
THIS HIDDEN CORE NEEDS TO ERUPT
FROM TIME TO TIME.
THE ANIMAL HAS TO GET OUT AGAIN
AND GO BACK TO THE WILDERNESS:
THE ROMAN, ARABIAN, GERMANIC,
JAPANESE NOBILITY, THE HOMERIC
HEROES, THE SCANDINAVIAN
VIKINGS, ALL SHARED THIS NEED."
IN FOUCAULT'S WORK WE HAVE A
REPEATED ADMIRATION FOR THE
ORIENT WITH A CERTAIN NOSTALGIA
FOR THE ARISTOCRATIC OSTENSIBLY
PATERNALISTIC SYSTEM OF TAKING
CARE OF ONE'S OWN SUBORDINATES,
WHICH MODERNITY HAD REPLACED
WITH A CALLOUS FORM OF
INDIVIDUALISM.
[Inaudible] FEED INTO A CULTURE
OF SILENCE AND A CULTURE OF
SUICIDE IN THE ORIENT AND IN
THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLDS.
OR NOTE HIS PRAISE OF EROTIC
ART IN THE EAST, HERE AGAIN
GROUPING ROME WITH ASIA, AND
THE MIDDLE EAST.
"CHINA," HE WRITES, "JAPAN,
INDIA, ROME, THE ARABO-MOSLEM
SOCIETIES, ENDOWED THEMSELVES
WITH AN ARS EROTICA.
OR TAKING IN HIS WRITINGS FROM
THE 1980s, VOLUME II OF
HISTORY OF SEXUALITY,
USES OF PLEASURE, WHICH THE
CELEBRATION OF AN ETHIC OF
HOMOSEXUAL LOVE, AMONG ELITE
MEN OF THE GREEK ACADEMY AND
THE ROMAN ARISTOCRACY.
AND THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE
CONFLICTING VOICES OF
MARGINALISED OTHERS, WOMEN,
YOUNG BOYS, SLAVES OR NON-
CITIZENS ARE ALMOST NEVER
HEARD.
IT'S AS IF FOUCAULT DROPPED
MOST OF HIS CRITICAL FACULTY
WHEN DEALING EITHER WITH THE
ANCIENT GRECO-ROMAN WORLD, OR
WHEN DEALING WITH THE ORIENT.
FOUCAULT BELIEVED THAT THE
[Inaudible] OF COLONIALISM HAD
BROUGHT WESTERN THOUGHT TO A
TURNING POINT AND TO A CRISIS.
DURING A VISIT IN 1978 TO A ZEN
TEMPLE IN JAPAN, FOR EXAMPLE,
HE TALKED ABOUT THE END OF THE
ERA OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY, SO
IF THERE IS GOING TO BE A
PHILOSOPHY IT WOULD HAVE TO
START OUTSIDE EUROPE, IT WOULD
HAVE TO HAVE NON-EUROPEAN
ORIGINS.
WHEN HE WENT TO IRAN AGAIN, HE
INSISTED, "FROM THE POINT OF
POLITICAL THOUGH, WE ARE, SO TO
SPEAK, AT POINT ZERO.
WE HAVE TO CONSTRUCT ANOTHER
POLITICAL THOUGHT, ANOTHER
POLITICAL IMAGINATION, AND
TEACHING A NEW DIVISION OF THE
FUTURE."
AND THAT'S WHERE HE SAID, "ANY
WESTERN INTELLECTUAL WITH ANY
INTEGRITY HAS TO COME TO IRAN
AND HAS TO SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING
IN IRAN BECAUSE," HE SAID,
"THERE ARE THOSE WHO STRUGGLE
IN IRAN TO PRESENT A DIFFERENT
WAY OF THINKING ABOUT SOCIAL
AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION, ONE
THAT TAKES NOTHING FROM WESTERN
PHILOSOPHY, FROM ITS JURIDICAL
AND REVOLUTIONARY FOUNDATIONS.
IN OTHER WORDS, THEY," MEANING
THE IRANIANS, "TRIED TO PRESENT
US AN ALTERNATIVE BASED ON
ISLAMIC TEACHINGS."
IN NOVEMBER WHEN HE WENT TO
IRAN, HE WROTE THAT THE NEW
MUSLIM STYLE OF POLITICS COULD
SIGNAL THE BEGINNING OF A NEW
FORM OF POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY,
NOT JUST FOR THE MIDDLE EAST,
BUT ALSO FOR EUROPE, WHICH HAD
ADOPTED A SECULAR POLITICS EVER
SINCE THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
AND THIS IS REALLY A KEY
CONCEPT, POLITICAL
SPIRITUALITY, THIS IS WHAT HE
LOVES ABOUT THE IRANIAN
REVOLUTION.
IN THESE WRITINGS AND
INTERVIEWS, HE STAKES OUT A
SERIES OF DISTINCT POLITICAL
AND THEORETICAL POSITIONS ON
THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION.
MOST OF THESE WRITINGS HAVE
NEVER BEFORE APPEARED IN
ENGLISH AND SO THE ENGLISH
SPEAKING WORLD HAS REALLY BEEN
UNAWARE OF THIS DISCUSSION,
WHICH IS QUITE WELL KNOWN IN
FRANCE.
THE QUESTION IS, OF COURSE,
WHY, GIVEN THE ACCESSIBILITY OF
EVERY WRITING, ALMOST ALL OF
THE WRITINGS OF FOUCAULT, THAT
IS ALL THAT WAS AVAILABLE FOR
PUBLICATION UNTIL HIS DEATH.
THESE WRITINGS HAVE NOT BEEN
PUBLISHED BEFORE.
SOME PEOPLE WOULD SUGGEST, YOU
KNOW THESE WRITINGS ARE AN
ABERRATION, THEY ARE MAYBE A
POLITICAL MISTAKE.
I GUESS WE WOULD ARGUE THAT
FOUCAULT'S WRITINGS ON IRAN ARE
ACTUALLY VERY CLOSELY RELATED
TO HIS GENERAL THEORETICAL
WRITINGS ON THE DISCOURSES OF
POWER AND THE HAZARDS OF
MODERNITY.
AND WE ALSO ARGUE THAT
FOUCAULT'S EXPERIENCE IN IRAN
LEFT A REALLY LASTING IMPACT ON
HIS SUBSEQUENT WORK AND ONE
CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE SUDDEN
TURN IN FOUCAULT'S THINKING,
THE MOVE, FOR EXAMPLE, IN
SUDDENLY WRITING ABOUT GRECO-
ROMAN PSYCHOSEXUALITY, WITHOUT
UNDERSTANDING -- OR ABOUT
CHRISTIAN MONASTERIES, WITHOUT
UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAPPENED IN
IRAN.
NOW TO HIS CREDIT VERY MUCH,
LONG BEFORE ANYONE ELSE,
FOUCAULT UNDERSTOOD THAT IRAN
WAS WITNESSING A SINGULAR KIND
OF REVOLUTION.
EARLY ON, HE PREDICTED THAT
THIS REVOLUTION WOULD NOT
FOLLOW THE MODEL OF OTHER
MODERN REVOLUTIONS.
HE WROTE THAT IT WAS ORGANIZED
AROUND A SHARPLY DIFFERENT
CONCEPT, WHICH HE CALLED
"POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY."
HE RECOGNIZED THE ENORMOUS
POWER OF THE DISCOURSE OF
MILITANT ISLAM, NOT JUST FOR
IRAN, BUT GLOBALLY.
HERE'S WHAT HE SAID.
"AS AN ISLAMIC MOVEMENT, IT CAN
SET THE ENTIRE REGION AFIRE,
OVERTURN THE MOST UNSTABLE
REGIMES, AND DISTURB THE MOST
SOLID.
ISLAM -- WHICH IS NOT SIMPLY A
RELIGION, BUT AN ENTIRE WAY OF
LIFE, AN ADHERENCE TO A HISTORY
AND A CIVILIZATION -- HAS A
GOOD CHANCE TO BECOME A
GIGANTIC POWDER KEG, AT THE
LEVEL OF HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS
OF PEOPLE."
AND HE'S SAYING THIS IN 1978,
WHICH IS VERY EARLY, EVEN
BEFORE THE SHAH IS ACTUALLY
OVERTHROWN.
NOW, FOUCAULT ALSO EMPHASISED
AN NUMBER OF ISSUES IN IRANIAN
REVOLUTION.
THE INSTRUMENTS OF MODERNITY IN
THIS REVOLUTION AS A MEANS OF
RESISTANCE.
HE CALLED ATTENTION TO THE
THEATRICALITY OF THE
REVOLUTION, THE INNOVATIVE USE
THAT ISLAMISTS MADE OF OVERSEAS
RADIO BROADCASTS, AND
CASSETTES, AND A BLENDING OF A
MORE TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS
DISCOURSE WITH MODERN MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION, AND HOW IT
HELPED TO GALVANIZE A
REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT AND
ULTIMATELY PARALYZED THE MODERN
AND AUTHORITARIAN PAHLAVI
REGIME.
SO VERY MUCH STUFF THAT WE'VE
BEEN TALKING ABOUT IN
PERFORMANCE STUDIES, FOR
EXAMPLE.
FOUCAULT WAS ALSO FASCINATED BY
THE REVOLUTIONARIES'
APPROPRIATION OF SHI'A MYTHS OF
MARTYRDOM AND RITUALS OF
PENANCE BY SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS
OF PEOPLE, I WOULD SAY MILLIONS
OF PEOPLE, AND ALSO THEIR
WILLINGNESS TO FACE DEATH IN
THEIR SINGLE-MINDED GOAL OF
OVERTHROWING THE PAHLAVI
REGIME.
NOW IN THESE WRITINGS, ONE
WOULD ASK A NUMBER OF
QUESTIONS.
WHY, WE WOULD SAY, WAS FOUCAULT
NOT IMMUNE TO THE TYPE OF
ILLUSIONS THAT SO MANY WESTERN
LEFTISTS HAD HELD FOR EXAMPLE,
TOWARD THE SOVIET UNION AND
LATER, TOWARDS CHINA.
WHY WAS IT THAT IN THE IRANIAN
CASE, FOUCAULT, IN ENORMOUS
ERUDITION, AND TALENT, DIDN'T
SEE THAT HERE WE HAVE THE
BECOMING OF A THAT PROPOUNDED A
TRADITIONALIST IDEOLOGY, BUT
THAT NEVERTHELESS EQUIPPED
ITSELF WITH MODERN TECHNOLOGIES
OF ORGANIZATION, SURVEILLANCE,
WELFARE, AND PROPAGANDA.
ANOTHER QUESTION, OF COURSE IS
WITH THE RELATIONSHIP TO
FEMINISM, ABOUT WHICH OTHER
PEOPLE HAVE WRITTEN.
BUT WE WOULD ARGUE THAT IN THE
IRANIAN CASE, THIS REALLY
BECOMES AN INTELLECTUAL LACUNA
IN THE CASE OF IRAN, IN TERMS
OF HIS NOT SEEING WHERE THE
REVOLUTION WAS GOING.

Now music plays as Janet and Kevin's book appears again.

Then, Kevin reappears at the lecture and continues
HE SAYS THAT NOT ONLY IRAN, BUT WESTERN
CULTURE NEEDS A RETURN TOWARD--
NEEDS TO RETURN TO A SPIRITUAL
POLITICS.
HE ACTUALLY SAYS THIS AT THE
END OF THE ARTICLE THAT BECAME
THE MOST DEBATED OF ALL HIS
WRITINGS WHEN THE DEBATE GOT
GOING OVER THESE IN FRANCE.
LET ME GIVE A COUPLE OF QUOTES.
AT ONE
POINT HE WRITES, IN NEARLY
ROUSSEAUEAN TERMS, THAT THE
MOVEMENT LED BY KHOMEINI,
"CONSTITUTES A PERFECTLY
UNIFIED COLLECTIVE WILL."
A PERFECTLY UNIFIED COLLECTIVE
WILL.
AND THAT
IT INVOLVES, "FORMS OF LIFE
UNCHANGED FOR THE LAST THOUSAND
YEARS."
AND THEN POLITICAL NAIVETÉ, I
THINK RATHER THAN A POLITICAL
ERROR, "THERE WILL NOT BE A
KHOMEINI PARTY, THERE WILL NOT
BE A KHOMEINI GOVERNMENT.
THE CLERICS ARE NICE, THEY'RE
DEMOCRATIC.
THEY'RE RELATED TO THE MASSES
AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL, THEY
DON'T HAVE ANY OF THESE LIKE
BAD AMBITIONS.
OKAY, TWO DIALOGUES THAT TAKE
PLACE IN FRANCE AFTER ONE OF
HIS ARTICLES IS PUBLISHED.
OKAY, FOUCAULT, AFTER
INTERVIEWING A BUNCH OF
CLERICS, AND THEIR FOLLOWERS IN
IRAN, AND ALSO DISPARAGING SOME
OF THE WESTERNISED
INTELLECTUALS HE MEETS, LIKE
MARXIST NATIONALISTS, HE SAYS
THOSE PEOPLE ARE NOT REALLY IN
TOUCH WITH THEIR OWN CULTURE,
AND HE HAS STATEMENTS KIND OF
LIKE THAT.
ONE OF THOSE TYPES RESPONDS,
ESPECIALLY AFTER FOUCAULT
WRITES THAT BETWEEN MEN AND
WOMEN, THERE WILL NOT BE
INEQUALITY, BUT DIFFERENCE,
SINCE THERE IS NATURAL
DIFFERENCE, QUOTING A CLERIC,
BUT KIND OF SEEMINGLY
APPROVINGLY.
AND THEN CONCL-- AND SAYING,
YEAH, THERE WILL BE A PLACE FOR
MINORITY RIGHTS, THIS CLERIC
TOLD HIM, SO LONG AS THEY DON'T
INJURE THE MAJORITY, AND THEN
CONCLUDING ON THIS THEME OF
POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY,
SOMETHING WHOSE POSSIBILITY
WE'VE FORGOTTEN EVER SINCE THE
RENAISSANCE IN THE WEST, BUT
THAT MAYBE WE NEED TO LOOK AT
AGAIN.
AND HE SAID, I KNOW MY FRENCH
READERS WILL LAUGH AT THIS.
WELL THEY DIDN'T JUST LAUGH,
THEY GOT PRETTY ANGRY, SOME OF
THEM.
AND NOW THAT I'VE MENTIONED
POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY, I WANT
TO MAKE CLEAR, WE'RE NOT
SECULARIST FUNDAMENTALISTS IN
THE SENSE THAT THERE ARE SOME
FORMS OF POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY
THAT EMBRACE TOLERANCE, THAT
EMBRACE PROGRESSIVE POLITICS,
GHANDIISM, THEOLOGY OF
LIBERATION IN LATIN AMERICA,
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN
THE UNITED STATES.
MORE RECENTLY, ELEMENTS OF THE
REFORM MOVEMENT, THE ISLAMIC
REFORM MOVEMENT IN IRAN ITSELF.
THESE ARE TOLERANT, DEMOCRATIC,
NON-AUTHORITARIAN FORMS OF
POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY.
FOUCAULT MANAGED TO PICK ONE
THAT WASN'T TOLERANT, THAT
WASN'T DEMOCRATIC.
FOUCAULT REALISED THIS WAS A
DIFFERENT KIND OF REVOLUTION,
AND REALLY EARLY, HE REALISED
THAT.
AND EVEN A LOT OF EXPERTS ON
THE MIDDLE EAST, DID NOT
REALISE THAT AT THE TIME.
BUT HERE'S SOME OF THE
PROBLEMS.
WHEN HE LOOKS AT IRANIAN
SOCIETY, HE TENDS TO SEE IT AS
AN UNDIFFERENTIATED UNITY.
SECONDLY HE USES PHRASES LIKE,
"UNCHANGING PATTERNS OVER
THOUSANDS OF YEARS."
HE TENDS TO SEE AN UNMEDIATED
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SHI'A
CLERGY AND THE MASSES OF THE
POPULATION, AS IF THE CLERGY
ARE NOT THEMSELVES SOME SORT OF
ELITE WITH CERTAINLY AN
AUTHORITARIAN HISTORY.

(music plays)

Janet reappears and continues
WHAT HAPPENED
IN IRAN IN THE DECADE BEFORE
THE REVOLUTION, WAS THAT A
GENERATION OF LEFTIST IRANIAN
INTELLECTUALS WITH RELIGIOUS
LEARNINGS, GRADUALLY CARVED A
NEW AND MORE MILITANT DISCOURSE
OF ISLAM IN AN ATTEMPT TO HAVE
A REVOLUTION TO OVERTHROW THE SHAH.
IT CAME TO THE
CONCLUSION THAT THE ONLY WAY
YOU COULD HAVE A REVOLUTION WAS
BY USING RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS SO
YOU COULD GET PEOPLE ON THE
STREETS, BUT IN THIS READING OF
SHI'ISM, THEY BORROWED HEAVILY
FROM THE WEST, MARXISM,
EXISTENTIALISM, HEIDEGGERIANISM
AND A MILITANT FORM OF
TRADITIONAL SHI'A ISLAM.
THIS NEW
DISCOURSE WAS OF COURSE, IN
OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT,
WHICH TOLERATED NO IDEOLOGICAL
OR POLITICAL CRITICISM OF THE
REGIME.
REMEMBER, WE SAID AGENTS OF THE
SAVAK WERE EVERYWHERE, THE
INFILTRATED ALL COLLEGES AND
UNIVERSITIES.
THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY OF
HAVING A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE
AUTHORITARIAN NATURE OF THE
GOVERNMENT.
OF COURSE, GOVERNMENTS WHICH
THE UNITED STATES CONTINUED TO
SUPPORT.
TODAY'S NEW YORK TIMES HAD AN
ARTICLE ABOUT A VERY MUCH
SIMILAR SITUATIONS IN A NUMBER
OF MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES.
OUT OF THIS COMES ALI SHARIATI,
ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL
MUSLIM THINKERS OF HIS
GENERATION.
HE WAS ONE OF THE IRANIAN
INTELLECTUALS WHO CONTRIBUTED
TO THIS TYPE OF THINKING.
HE HAD A PhD IN PHILOLOGY FROM
SORBONNE, GALVANISED THE YOUTH,
AND PAVED THE WAY FOR
KHOMEINI'S EVENTUAL
APPROPRIATION OF THE MOVEMENT.
SHARIATI'S REINTERPRETATION OF
JIHAD AND MARTYRDOM WAS
INFLUENCED BY HIS PHILOSOPHICAL
STUDIES IN FRANCE, THOUGH HE
ALSO CLAIMED TO BE, OF COURSE
AN AUTHENTIC ISLAM, AND I THINK
MUSLIM.
SHARIATI GAVE THE OLD RELIGIOUS
NARRATIVES A NEW STAMP OF
WESTERN MODERN ACCEPTABILITY,
MAKING THEM MORE PALATABLE TO
COLLEGE STUDENTS.
SOON AFTER HIS RETURN TO IRAN
IN 19764, HE GAINED A MASS
FOLLOWING AS A POWERFUL
LECTURER.
I REMEMBER MY COLLEGE FRIENDS
ALL GOING TO HIS LECTURES,
ATTENDING THEM, THINKING IT WAS
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THEY'D
EVER HEARD.
AFTER A SERIES OF
CONFRONTATIONS WITH THE REGIME
IN 1977, HE WENT TO ENGLAND,
AND THEN HE DIED OF A HEART
ATTACK AT THE AGE OF 44, SO HE
DIED BEFORE THE REVOLUTION.
HE INTRODUCED AN EXISTENTIALIST
HEIDEGGERIAN READING OF
[unintelligible]
AND THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA.
HE ELEVATED THE CONCEPT OF
MARTYRDOM ABOVE ALL ELSE, AND
CALLED IT THE DEFINING MOMENT
OF SHI'ISM.
HE CALLED FOR A REVOLUTIONARY
CONCEPT OF ISLAM, THAT COULD
CHALLENGE THE MONARCHY AND
BRING A NEW GENERATION OF
MUSLIM THINKERS LIKE HIM TO
POWER.
IN HIS SEARCH FOR AN AUTHENTIC
INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM,
SHARIATI CASTIGATED ALL OTHER
INFLUENCES OF ISLAM, GREEK
PHILOSOPHY, A THOUSAND YEARS OF
INFLUENCES OF ISLAM, HE
COMPLETELY DISMISSED, INDIAN
AND IRANIAN MYSTICISM,
CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH THEOLOGY.
HE ALSO SPOKE AGAINST THE MORE
TOLERANT INTERPRETATIONS OF
ISLAM, BOTH WITHIN THE QUR'AN
AND IN CLASSICAL PERSIAN
POETRY.
THAT IS, HE ACTUALLY SAID
THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW,
TRADITIONAL CLERICS TELL YOU
THAT THERE ARE MANY WAYS OF
GETTING TO HEAVEN.
THAT THERE ARE MANY, MANY WAYS,
MANY DOORS, FOR EXAMPLE, TO
HEAVEN, THAT THEY WOULD TELL
YOU THAT YOU DO NOT NEED TO
ENTER THE GATE OF HEAVEN
THROUGH MARTYRDOM, THROUGH
JIHAD, THERE ARE LOTS OF OTHER
WAYS, CHARITABLE AFFAIRS,
FEEDING THE NEEDY, LOOKING
AFTER THE POOR, VISITING THE
HOLY PLACES, PRAYING,
ASCETICISM, PIETY, MAKING VOWS,
DEDICATION, HELPING YOUR
NEIGHBOUR, INCANTATION, PRAYER
CEREMONIES, LAMENTATION,
INTERCESSION, BUT THEY TELL
YOU, AND I'M QUOTING HIM, THAT
YOU REACH THE SAME COURT AS A
PERSON THAT CHOOSES JIHAD.
SO WHY CAUSE YOURSELF SUFFERING
AND PAIN BY CHOOSING THE MUCH
MORE DIFFICULT ACTION TO JIHAD?
AND SHARIATI SCOFFS AT ALL
THIS.
AT ALL THESE SERMONS OF THE
TRADITIONAL CLERICS.
HE SAYS, PARADISE CANNOT BE
BOUGHT SO CHEAPLY, THROUGH
PRAYER, FASTING AND RITUALS.
ONLY THROUGH A CONTINUOUS RE-
ENACTMENT OF THE TRAGEDY OF
KARBALA ONE COULD LIVE THE LIFE
OF A GENUINE MUSLIM.
THIS RE-ENACTMENT, HE SAID, IS
NOT VIA THE [Inaudible]
PERFORMERS, OR THE MUHARRAM
PROCESSIONS, NOR IS IT AN
INTELLECTUAL AND MENTAL JIHAD.
IT CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY
EMBRACING PERSONAL MARTYRDOM.
FOR SHARIATI,
THE KEY POINT IN THE STORY OF
KARBALA WAS HUSSAIN'S
EXISTENTIAL CHOICE.
HUSSAIN COULD NOT FIGHT AND WIN
OVER THE MORE POWERFUL YAZID,
AND HE COULD NOT REMAIN SILENT,
SO HE CHOSE A THIRD OPTION,
DEATH, WHICH OPENED THE
POSSIBILITY OF AN AUTHENTIC
SHI'A ISLAM FOR OTHERS,
ACCORDING TO HIM.
IN
BEING
AND TIME,
HEIDEGGER HAD
REINTERPRETED THE CRUCIFIXION
AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS TO
ARRIVE AT A NEW PHILOSOPHICAL
MEANING.
WHEN ONE FACED THE POSSIBILITY
OF ONE'S OWN DEATH AND ADOPTED
AN ATTITUDE OF BEING TOWARD
DEATH, ONE COULD EXPERIENCE
AUTHENTIC LIVING.
SHARIATI WAS INFLUENCED BY
THIS, AND SIMILAR HERMENEUTICAL
READINGS OF CHRISTIANITY BUT
HIS NOTION OF AUTHENTICITY WAS
IN THE COMMUNITY RATHER THAN IN
THE INDIVIDUAL.
WHEN SHI'AS FACE A FORMIDABLE
ENEMY OF ISLAM, ONE WHO COULD
NOT BE DEFEATED, THEY HAD TWO
OPTIONS, HE SAID.
ONE TO REMAIN SILENT AND ALLOW
THE OPPRESSION TO CONTINUE, TWO
TO CHOOSE DEATH AND AT LEAST
CREATE THE POSSIBILITY OF
AUTHENTIC MUSLIM LIVING FOR
OTHERS.
IN A MORBID APPEAL TO THE
YOUTH, BOTH YOUNG MEN AND
WOMEN, SHARIATI ARGUED THAT
THIS TYPE OF DEATH WAS AS
BEAUTIFUL AS A NECKLACE AROUND
THE NECK OF A YOUNG AND
BEAUTIFUL GIRL.
IT WAS AN ADORNMENT FOR
MANKIND.
FOUCAULT WAS IN IRAN AT THE
TIME.
HE COMPARED THE POLITICAL RE-
ENACTMENTS OF THE SHI'A RITUALS
WITH THOSE OF CHRISTIAN RITES
OF PENANCE.

Another black and white picture of Foucault shows him seen in profile as he makes a fiery grabbing gesture.

Janet continues
HE WROTE, ON DECEMBER 2nd, THE
MONTH OF MUHARRAM AM BEGINS.
IN THIS MONTH PEOPLE MOURN THE
MARTYRDOM OF HUSSEIN.
THIS IS A TIME FOR THE GREAT
RITUAL OF PENITENCE.
UNTIL A LITTLE WHILE AGO,
GROUPS OF PEOPLE TOOK TO THE
STREETS WHILE PERFORMING SELF
FLAGELLATION.
BUT A FEELING OF GUILT, WHICH
REMINDS ONE OF CHRISTIANITY, IS
TIED INTO THESE EVENTS AND HAS
A LASTING BOND WITH THE
COMMEMORATION OF THE MARTYR.
IT IS A TIME WHEN PEOPLE, IN
THEIR SPIRITUAL RENUNCIATION,
HAVE NO FEAR OF FACING DEATH.
FOUCAULT WAS MOVED BY THE
THEATRICALITY OF THE WHOLE
EXPERIENCE.
HE WROTE ABOUT IT AS A SORT OF
THEATRE THAT THEY PUT TOGETHER.
HE TALKED ABOUT IT AS THE
VOCABULARY, THE CEREMONIAL, THE
TIMELESS DRAMA IN WHICH ONE
COULD FIT THE HISTORICAL DRAMA
OF A PEOPLE THAT PITTED ITS
VERY EXISTENCE AGAINST THAT OF
A SOVEREIGN.
HE COMPARED IT TO THE GREEK
TRAGEDIES, THE IRANIAN
PERFORMANCES THAT HE SAW OF
THIS PASSION PLAY IN IRAN, BUT
NOW IN A NEW POLITICAL GARB.
HE WAS ENORMOUSLY MESMERISED BY
THE NEW ATTITUDE TOWARD DEATH
ON THE STREETS.
"THE SHI'A IRANIANS HAD A
DIFFERENT REGIME OF TRUTH," HE
WROTE, "AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT
ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE AND DEATH,
ONE THAT SET THEM APART FROM
THE LOGIC OF THE WESTERN
WORLD."
FOUCAULT WAS INTERESTED IN BOTH
THE FESTIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF
THIS RITUAL MOURNING, AND ITS
HEALING POWER.
AND IN PARTICULAR, AS I SAID
WITH THE DISCOURSE OF
MARTYRDOM, AND THE NEW FORMS OF
POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY IN HIS
WRITINGS, HE KIND OF TALKS
ABOUT THESE, AND IN HIS
INTERVIEWS, HE DISCUSSES IT IN
LENGTH.
NOW IN THE '80s, AFTER THE
REVOLUTION, WE HAVE A NUMBER OF
SCATTERED STATEMENTS IN
FOUCAULT'S WRITINGS, LECTURES
AND INTERVIEWS THAT SHOWS AN
INTEREST IN EARLY CHRISTIAN
PRACTISES OF THE SELF, AND HERE
THERE'S A REALLY EERIE
RESEMBLANCE TO WHAT HE SAW IN
IRAN.
BECAUSE WHEN HE WRITES ABOUT
VERY EARLY CHRISTIAN PRACTISES
OF PENANCE, WHAT HE SINGLES OUT
ARE THESE PUBLIC MANIFESTATIONS
OF PENITENCE.
HE WRITES ABOUT FASTING,
WEARING TATTERED CLOTHES,
BARING THE CHEST, HEAPING ASHES
ON ONE'S HEAD, SCORING THE
BODY, HOW THE PENITENT HAD TO
PROVE HIS SUFFERING AND SHOW
HIS SHAME, AND MAKE VISIBLE HIS
HUMILITY, AND EXHIBIT HIS
MODESTY, VERY MUCH LIKE THE
TRADITIONS IN IRAN.
THAT ONE NOW TOLD THE TRUTH,
NOT BY VERBALLY CONFESSING, BUT
BY ACTUALLY PERFORMING, IN A
SENSE, RITUALLY, ONE'S OWN
DEATH.
AND HE COMPARED IT TO THE
CONFESSION PRACTISES OF THE
CATHOLIC CHURCH.
AS YOU KNOW, FOUCAULT WAS VERY
CRITICAL OF THE CONFESSION
PRACTISES OF THE CATHOLIC
CHURCH.
HE SAW THEM AS THE BEGINNING OF
THE CONFESSIONAL METHODS, IF
YOU WILL, OF MODERN FORMS OF
DISCIPLINARY SOCIAL CONTROL.
SO NOW, AFTER THE IRANIAN
EXPERIENCE, IT'S AS IF HE'S
FOUND SOMETHING ELSE, ANOTHER
FORM OF PENANCE, ANOTHER FORM
OF RITUAL PERFORMANCE, ANOTHER
FORM OF CONFESSION THAT IS NOT
A VERBAL CONFESSION.
AND HE LOVES IT, HE'S VERY
HAPPY, AND IT'S VERY SIMILAR,
OF COURSE TO WHY THE IRANIAN
RITUALS ARE SO LASTING, HAVE
LASTED FOR SO LONG, BECAUSE
ESSENTIALLY, THEY OPERATE ON
THE SAME LEVEL.

(music plays)

Kevin reappears and continues
MAXIME RODINSON, STILL DO THIS DAY,
HIS BIOGRAPHY OF MOHAMMED IS
CONSIDERED TO BE THE BEST
SCHOLARLY WORK ON THE TOPIC.
HE'S AUTHORED NUMEROUS OTHER
WORKS INCLUDING
MARXISM AND
THE MUSLIM WORLD, AND HE
WAS ALSO IN FRANCE, PROBABLY
THE BEST KNOWN INTELLECTUAL
SUPPORTER OF THE PALESTINIAN
MOVEMENT.
RODINSON
WROTE A LENGTHY SERIES OF
ARTICLES FOR
LE MONDE,
THAT APPEARED ON PAGE ONE, AND
FRANCE WAS AND IS A COUNTRY
WHERE A PROFESSOR, AN
INTELLECTUAL CAN DO THAT ONCE
IN A WHILE.
AND GAVE
A LONG, VERY SCHOLARLY ANALYSIS
OF THE RISE OF RADICAL
ISLAMISM, TALKING NOT ONLY
ABOUT IRAN, BUT SOME OF THE
STUFF THAT HAD BEEN GOING ON A
FEW YEARS EARLY IN PAKISTAN
WITH THE MILITARY REGIME THERE,
WITH COLONEL KADDAFI, EGYPT,
AND HE CONCLUDED, I MEAN I'M
NOT GOING TO GO THROUGH HIS
WHOLE ANALYSIS, BUT HE
CONCLUDED THAT WHAT WAS IN
STORE FOR IRAN WAS NOT A
LIBERATION, BUT A TYPE OF
ARCHAIC FASCISM.
THAT WAS WHAT--
AGAIN, THIS WAS WAY BEFORE THE
REVOLUTION.
THEY'RE ALL OPERATING, ATUSEF,
FOUCAULT AND RODINSON ARE ALL
OPERATING, NOT KNOWING EXACTLY
WHAT-- I MEAN HOW COULD ONE
HAVE KNOWN EXACTLY WHAT WAS
GOING TO HAPPEN.
NOW FOUCAULT RESPONDS LATER ON
BY SAYING, YEAH, THESE SO-
CALLED EXPERTS ON ISLAM HAVE
THESE ATTITUDES AND SO ON.
SO THIS KIND OF GOES ON LIKE
THIS, BUT THEN IT REALLY
EXPLODES.
IT EXPLODES IN MARCH '79, TWO
MONTHS AFTER THE REVOLUTION.
THE WAY IT EXPLODES IS THIS.
ON MARCH 8, 1979, THE ORDER
COMES DOWN FROM THE NEW
GOVERNMENT, THAT WOMEN HAVE TO
COVER THEMSELVES.
DEFINITELY IF THEY HAVE A JOB
FOR THE GOVERNMENT, BUT ON THE
STREETS, PROBABLY AS WELL.
THERE START TO BE
DEMONSTRATIONS.
THIS, TO THIS DAY, IS PROBABLY
THE LARGEST FEMINIST
DEMONSTRATIONS THAT EVER TOOK
PLACE ANYWHERE IN THE MUSLIM
WORLD, AT ITS PEAK, 50,000
PEOPLE ON THE STREETS.
NOW IT'S TRUE THE KHOMEINI
PEOPLE COULD BRING A MILLION,
BUT THEY DID BRING 50,000.
AND IT WAS VERY-- IT WAS UNDER
VERY DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES,
BECAUSE A GROUP THAT LATER
BECAME FAMOUS, CALLED THE
HEZBOLLAH QUICKLY ORGANISED,
PARTY OF GOD, THEY WERE THERE,
THEY WERE ARMED, THEY WERE
HARASSING THE DEMONSTRATORS,
ESPECIALLY AS SOON AS THEY
STEPPED OUT OF THE GATES OF THE
UNIVERSITY ONTO THE STREETS.
MALE LEFTISTS TO THEIR CREDIT,
HUNDREDS OF MALE LEFTISTS CAME
AND FORMED A CORDON AROUND THE
WOMEN, LINKED ARMS AND FOUGHT
OFF, TO SOME DEGREE, THESE
THUGS, WHO WERE EMPOWERED BY
THE NEW REGIME, IN DIRECT--
THIS WENT ON FOR A FULL WEEK.
IT OF COURSE, HIT THE WORLD
PRESS.
IN FRANCE, IT STARTED TO BE
DEBATED.
FEMINIST GROUPS IN FRANCE, IN
FACT THE IRANIAN FEMINISTS
INVITED INTERNATIONAL FEMINISTS
TO COME.
KATE MOLLETTE WAS THE MOST
FAMOUS ONE THAT SHOWED UP, AND
SHE WAS THERE, AND SHE WAS
KICKED OUT, EXPELLED BY THE
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT.
FRENCH FEMINISTS WENT, LIKE
CLAUDINE MOULARD, SIMONE DU
BEAUVOIR SENT THEM OFF, GAVE A
PRESS CONFERENCE AND SENT THEM
OFF FROM PARIS, WHERE THEY WENT
TO DO AN INVESTIGATION OF THE
SITUATION OF WOMEN IN IRAN.
IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT
PEOPLE STARTED TO LOOK AGAIN AT
FOUCAULT'S WRITINGS ON THE
IRANIAN REVOLUTION, AND SOME
REALLY HARSH CRITIQUES CAME
DOWN.
ALSO WANT TO MENTION THAT THIS
IS THE POINT WHERE GAY MEN, OR
AT LEAST OPENLY GAY MEN WERE
PUBLICLY EXECUTED ON THE
STREETS AFTER SUMMARY TRIALS BY
MARCH '79.
SO THIS IS WHERE THE ATTACKS
REALLY START ON FOUCAULT, AND
THEY GO ON FOR ABOUT TWO WEEKS.
ALL THE MAJOR NEWSPAPERS RUN
REVIEWS OF A BOOK WHERE ONE OF
FOUCAULT'S VERY ENTHUSIASTIC
INTERVIEWS ABOUT THE IRANIAN
CLERICS APPEARS.
THE INTERVIEW WAS ACTUALLY
CONDUCTED BEFORE THE
REVOLUTION, BUT BOOKS TAKE
LONGER TO PUBLISH, AND IT WAS
FOUCAULT'S BAD LUCK THAT THIS
APPEARED RIGHT--
A WEEK AFTER THE WOMEN'S
DEMONSTRATIONS, AND THEIR
REPRESSION.
SO FOUCAULT COMES UNDER INTENSE
ATTACK, HE'S ASKED TO RESPOND.
HE SAYS I DON'T RESPOND TO
POLEMICS, AND THESE VICIOUS
KINDS OF ATTACKS ON ME.
HE KIND OF IMPLIES THAT THEY'RE
TRYING TO PUT HIM ON A-- IN A
STALINIST SHOW TRIAL OR
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
AND HE WRITES TWO MORE
ARTICLES.
ONE OF THEM IS MILDLY
CRITICAL-- OR BOTH HAVE SOME
MILD CRITICISMS OF THE REGIME,
THE NEW REGIME, BUT NEITHER OF
THEM QUESTION THIS IDEA OF A
SPIRITUAL POLITICS, OR MAYBE A
MILDER AND GENTLER FORM OF AN
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC.
THEY DON'T QUESTION THE VERY
BASIS OF HIS EARLIER WRITINGS,
BUT THEY DO QUESTION SOME OF
THE HARSHNESS OF THE NEW
REGIME.

(music plays)

Janet reappears and continues
THE QUESTION IS
WHY FOUCAULT, OF COURSE, HAVING
LIVED THROUGH THE AGE OF THE
WORLD WAR II PERIOD, NEVER
RELATED KHOMEINI'S SELECTIVE
READING OF MODERNITY OR HIS
EQUATION OF MODERNITY WITH LOSS
OF SPIRITUALITY TO SIMILAR
POLITICAL INNOVATIONS BY THE
RIGHT IN EUROPE FOUR DECADES
EARLIER.
THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES OF SUCH
POLITICAL MANIPULATIONS IN
EUROPE, AND ONE CAN COMPARE
THEM WITH THE IRANIAN
EXPERIENCE IN ORDER TO
DEMYSTIFY THE NOTION OF AN
ISLAMIST REGIME WITH ITS
PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUES AS A
DISTINCTLY ORIENTAL PHENOMENON.
INDEED, ONE IS STRUCK BY THE
DEGREE TO WHICH FOUCAULT
UNIVERSALISED ISLAM AND SHI'ISM
AND NEVER EXPLORED THE FACT
THAT A PARTICULAR READING OF
SHI'ISM WAS ADOPTED BY A GROUP
OF DISSIDENT CLERICS AND
INTELLECTUALS, IN THE COURSE OF
THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION.
NOR DID HE PAY ATTENTION TO THE
FACT THAT KHOMEINI'S ANTI-
MODERNIST STANCE INVOLVED
INNOVATIONS AND INVENTIONS OF
TRADITION.
WHAT FOUCAULT
WITNESSED IN IRAN, WAS THE
RESULT OF A CAREFULLY STAGED
AND CRAFTED INTERPRETATION OF
SHI-ISM, ONE THAT WAS DEVELOPED
IN THE 1960s AND '70s, AND IS A
RESPONSE TO THE AUTHORITARIAN
MODERNISATION OF MOHAMMAD REZA
SHAH'S GOVERNMENT.
THIS WAS A MORE
MILITANT AND POLITICAL READING
OF SHI'ISM AND THE RITUALS OF
MUHARRAM ONE THAT WAS ALSO
INFLUENCED BY WESTERN
PHILOSOPHIC DISCOURSES.
THIS WAS NOT A DISCOURSE THAT
WAS DEVELOPED IN ISOLATION FROM
THE WEST.
RATHER, IT WAS A SYNTHESIS OF
ORTHODOX MARXISM,
EXISTENTIALISM,
HEIDEGGERIANISM, AND A MILITANT
FORM OF TRADITIONAL SHI'A
ISLAM.
IN THIS HYBRID DISCOURSE, THE
RITUALS OF PRAYER AND FASTING,
EVEN CARE FOR FELLOW MUSLIMS
AND ATTENTION TO ORPHANS AND
WIDOWS, TOOK THE BACK STAGE.
AUTHENTIC ISLAM WAS NOW DEFINED
BY THIS GENERATION OF IRANIANS,
AS A PERSON'S WILLINGNESS TO
FACE MARTYRDOM IN ORDER TO
REACH A BETTER WORLD FOR
OTHERS.
SO PERMIT ME TO SAY A FEW
THINGS ABOUT THE RITUALS OF
MUHARRAM AND THE STORY OF
KARBALA, WHICH IS THE MOST
IMPORTANT STORY AND NARRATIVE
OF SHI'A RELIGION.
ACCORDING TO LEGEND, IN 680,
COMMON ERA, THE GRANDSON OF
MUHAMMAD, THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD,
TOGETHER WITH 72 MEMBERS OF HIS
FAMILY AND SUPPORTERS WAS
MASSACRED A CALIPH NAMED YAZID
WHO WAS FROM THE INFLUENTIAL
OMAYAD CLAN, IN THE DESERT OF
KARBALA, WHICH IS, OF COURSE,
AS YOU ALL KNOW NOW, IN MODERN
IRAQ.
THE SHI'AS BELIEVE THAT THE
MUSLIM COMMUNITY SHOULD HAVE
REVERTED TO HUSSEIN AND HIS
CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY WERE THE
DIRECT DESCENDANTS OF THE
PROPHET, AND HENCE, IN THE
SHI'A WORLD VIEW, SUNNI CALIPHS
ARE ALL USURPERS OF POWER.
NOW IN THE CENTURIES THAT
FOLLOWED, THE ANNIVERSARY OF
DEATH OF HUSSEIN WAS
COMMEMORATED TO VARIOUS
RITUALS, AND KARBALA BECAME THE
SITE OF PILGRIMAGE OF SHI'AS
AROUND THE WORLD, AND IT IS TO
THIS DAY.
IRAN, LEBANON, SOUTHERN IRAQ,
BAHRAIN, KUWAIT, PAKISTAN, MANY
PARTS OF AFGHANISTAN AND INDIA.
THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE
MARTYRDOM OF HUSSEIN, REMAINS
THE MOST IMPORTANT CEREMONIAL
EVENT OF THE YEAR.
NOW THESE RITUALS ARE
CELEBRATED IN THREE WAYS.
ONE WAY IS A GATHERING IN
SOMEONE'S HOUSE WHEN THERE IS,
FRIENDS COME TOGETHER, GUILD
MEMBERS COME TOGETHER, THE
AUDIENCE LAMENTS AND GRIEVES IN
MEMORY OF HUSSEIN.
USUALLY THERE'S FOOD AND
FESTIVITIES ACTUALLY, THAT
FOLLOW IT.
SO YOU KIND OF CRY FOR THE
MEMORY OF HUSSEIN, YOU SORT OF
CRY FOR YOUR OWN PAINS IN LIFE.
IT'S A SORT OF PENANCE, BECAUSE
IF YOU CRY FOR HUSSEIN -- IT'S
THE SAME CHRISTIAN CONCEPT, IF
YOU CRY FOR HUSSEIN, YOU ARE
ALSO CRYING FOR YOUR OWN SINS,
AND SO GOD WILL ALSO FORGIVE
YOU FOR YOUR OWN SINS.
THEN USUALLY THERE'S A NICE
DINNER AND EVERYBODY GETS
TOGETHER AND HAS A GOOD TIME.
THERE'S A SECOND ONE, WHICH IS
A FUNERAL PROCESSION WHERE
PARTICIPANTS DRESS IN BLACK AND
THEY MARCH THROUGH THE STREETS
AND BAZAARS DURING PARTICULARLY
THE FIRST TEN DAYS OF MUHARRAM,
AND THEN THEY CHANT EULOGIES,
AND THEY BEAT THEIR CHESTS
RHYTHMICALLY, AND I'M SURE
YOU'VE SEEN THIS ON TV, OFTEN
WITH CHAINS, STICKS AND SWORDS.
AND THEN THE THIRD ONE IS A
TAZIA, IT'S A PERFORMANCE.
IT'S VERY SIMILAR TO CHRISTIAN
PASSION PLAYS, AND IT'S ONE OF
THE OLDEST FORMS OR THEATRE IN
THE REGION.
THIS IS A HIGHLY MELODRAMATIC
PERFORMANCE WHICH IS STAGED BY
LOCAL GROUPS THROUGHOUT THE
COUNTRY, BEFORE LARGE
AUDIENCES.
THE PERFORMANCES SINGLE OUT THE
SUFFERING OF HUSSEIN'S
ENTOURAGE, ESPECIALLY THAT OF
THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN.
THE AUDIENCE WEEPS BITTERLY
DURING THE LAST SCENES OF THE
PLAY, AND IS REMINDED OF THE
TREACHERY AND GUILT OF THE
COMMUNITY WHICH DID NOT SIDE
WITH THE SAVIOUR HUSSEIN, AND
THEREBY ALLOWED THE TYRANT
YAZID TO COMMIT HIS DASTARDLY
DEED.
LET ME JUST READ YOU AN
OBSERVATION BY THE WELL KNOWN
DRAMATURG PETER BROOK WHEN HE
SAW A TAZIA IN AN IRANIAN
VILLAGE.
"I SAW IN A REMOTE IRANIAN
VILLAGE, ONE OF THE STRONGEST
THINGS I HAVE SEEN IN THEATRE,
A GROUP OF 400 VILLAGERS, THE
ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE PLACE,
SITTING UNDER A TREE AND
PASSING FROM ROARS OF LAUGHTER
TO OUTRIGHT SOBBING.
ALTHOUGH THEY ALL KNEW
PERFECTLY WELL THE END OF THE
STORY.
AS THEY SAW IMAM HUSSEIN IN
DANGER OF BEING KILLED, AND
THEN FOOLING HIS ENEMIES, AND
THEN BEING MARTYRED AND WHEN HE
WAS MARTYRED, THE THEATRE
BECAME A TRUTH.
THERE WAS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
PAST AND PRESENT.
AN EVENT THAT WAS TOLD AS
REMEMBERED HAPPENING IN HISTORY
1,300 YEARS AGO, ACTUALLY
BECAME A REALITY IN THAT
MOMENT."
NOW WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 1960s
AND '70s, A GENERATION OF
IRANIAN INTELLECTUALS VERY
DISILLUSIONED WITH THE FACT
THAT THE AMERICANS HAD CARRIED
A COUP IN IRAN, AND DECIDED
THAT AMERICAN DEMOCRACY WAS A
COMPLETE SHAM, AND THAT WHEN IT
CAME TO THE WEST, THERE WAS
REALLY NO SENSE OF DEMOCRACY,
THE UNITED STATES WAS NOT, FOR
THAT MATTER, ENGLAND, WERE NOT
INTERESTED IN CARRYING OUT
DEMOCRACY IN THE WEST.
AND THEY WERE ALSO VERY
DISILLUSIONED WITH THE IRANIAN
COMMUNIST PARTY, WHICH HAD
SIDED WITH THE SOVIET UNION
WHEN THE SOVIET UNION HAD
ACTUALLY HAD DESIGNS OVER
NORTHERN PARTS OF IRAN, THE
NORTHERN IRANIAN TERRITORY.
SO IN THIS DISILLUSION WITH
BOTH CAPITALISM AND COMMUNISM,
WHERE YOU WOULD SAY DEMOCRATIC
POLITICS AND COMMUNIST
POLITICS, THEY DECIDED TO GO
AFTER A FORM OF INDIGENOUS FORM
OF POLITICS, ONE THAT WOULD
COMBINE ELEMENTS OF IRANIAN
CULTURE AND POLITICS WITH A
SORT OF A THIRD WORLD LEFTIST,
SOCIALIST READING.

(music plays)

Kevin reappears and continues
AND WE THINK THAT THE IRAN WRITINGS
ILLUSTRATE AND DRAMATIZE AND
BRING TO THE FOREGROUND, IF I
CAN USE A KIND OF WORD THAT HE
LIKED TO USE, FOREGROUND SOME
OF THOSE PROBLEMS.
NUMBER ONE, THE ONE SIDED CRITIQUE OF
MODERNITY AND THE LACK OF
CRITIQUE OF NON-MODERN SOCIAL
FORMS AND CULTURES,
SPECIFICALLY THE LACK OF
CRITIQUE OF TRADITIONALIST
FORMS OF OPPRESSION AND
HIERARCHY BASED ON RELIGION AND
PATRIARCHY.
UNCRITICAL-- SECOND PROBLEM, A
TENDENCY TOWARD UNCRITICAL
EMBRACE OF THE TRANSGRESSOR OF
RADICAL DIFFERENCE.
THE PRISONER -- THE PRISONER AS
SOMEONE WHO RESISTS, OKAY,
WOULD BE AN EXAMPLE OF A
PROBLEM, BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM
THERE ALSO, MAYBE NOT SO MUCH
AS WHEN ONE EXTENDS THAT TO THE
ANGRY RADICAL CLERIC IN IRAN,
WHO IS AT THE HEAD OF A WELL
ORGANISED MOVEMENT THAT HAS A
VERY AUTHORITARIAN AGENDA.
FASCINATION, AT LEAST IN SOME
PARTS OF HIS WRITINGS WITH
DEATH AND MARTYRDOM, AND A
PROBLEMATIC RELATION TO
FEMINISM.
SO ALL OF THOSE PROBLEMS THAT
COME OUT ELSEWHERE AND HAVE
ALREADY BEEN TALKED ABOUT BY
CRITICS OF FOUCAULT, COME OUT
RATHER DRAMATICALLY IN THE
FRENCH WRITING, AND IN THE IRAN
WRITING.
NOW FOR-- I WANT TO MAKE CLEAR
WE'RE NOT SAYING THAT OUR
FOUCAULT -- WHATEVER MISTAKES
FOUCAULT MADE IN HIS OWN
WRITINGS ARE MORE OUTRAGEOUS OR
MORE PROBLEMATIC THAN MANY
OTHER INTELLECTUALS WHO HAVE
ENGAGED IN POLITICS.
SO MANY OTHERS, FOR EXAMPLE,
WHO MADE JOURNEYS TO STALIN'S
RUSSIA, AND EVEN SOME WENT TO
MUSSOLINI'S ITALY AND SAID, YOU
KNOW, I'VE SEEN THE FUTURE AND
IT WORKS, AND THESE KIND OF
STATEMENTS, OR PEOPLE LATER ON
WHO WENT TO MAO'S CHINA AND
INSISTED THAT EVERYONE IN THE
VILLAGE THEY VISITED LOVED
CHAIRMAN MAO, AND THERE WERE,
LIKE NO CRITICS OF CHAIRMAN
MAO, THEY JUST COULDN'T FIND
THEM.
THAT WAS JUST ALL A WESTERN
INVENTION.
AND THERE WERE NO PRISONS,
REALLY, THERE WERE JUST LIKE,
RE-EDUCATION CAMPS IN CHINA,
WHERE, UNLIKE OUR NASTY
PRISONS, THEY JUST VERY GENTLY
BROUGHT PEOPLE TO THE TRUTH.
SO I THINK WE KNOW ABOUT SOME
OF THESE ACCOUNTS, AND SOME OF
THOSE WHO FELL INTO THEM.
WE'RE NOT SUGGESTING THAT
FOUCAULT FELL INTO IT WORSE
THAN OTHERS, BUT THAT HE DID
FALL INTO IT.
HE STARTS SPENDING MORE TIME IN
THE UNITED STATES.
HE SAYS HE'S TIRED OF THE
INGROWN CHARACTER OF THE
PARISIAN INTELLECTUAL WORLD.
IN '84, AS JANET QUOTED, AS
JANET MENTIONED, ONE OF HIS
LAST WRITINGS IN THE ESSAY,
"WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT,"
FOUCAULT-- THERE'S THIS PHRASE
THAT WE HADN'T EVEN NOTICED
OURSELVES TILL WE'D ALMOST
FINISHED THE BOOK.
IT'S IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS KIND
OF LIKE RETHINKING OF KANT AND
THE ENLIGHTENMENT, A LOT OF
PEOPLE INTERPRET IT AS STEPPING
BACK FROM SOME OF THE ONE-
SIDEDNESS OF HIS EARLIER
CRITIQUES OF ENLIGHTENMENT
REASON, BUT ANYWAY, THERE'S
THIS SENTENCE IN IT.
"WE KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE THAT
THE CLAIM TO ESCAPE FROM THIS
SYSTEM OF CONTEMPORARY REALITY,
SO AS TO PRODUCE THE OVERALL
PROGRAMS OF ANOTHER SOCIETY, OR
ANOTHER WAY OF THINKING,
ANOTHER CULTURE, ANOTHER VISION
OF THE WORLD, HAS LED ONLY TO
THE RETURN OF THE MOST
DANGEROUS TRADITIONALISM."

Another black and white picture of Foucault pops up in which he holds his chin in a pensive frown.

Kevin continues
NOW WE DON'T KNOW IF HE'S
TALKING ABOUT HIS OWN WRITINGS,
BUT-- ON IRAN, BUT WE SUSPECT
THAT HE WAS.

(music plays)
The book reappears one last time, followed by a black slate that reads "Thank you, Neil McLaughlin, McMaster University."

Watch: Janet Afary, Kevin B. Anderson on The Seductions of Islamism