Award-winning author and anthropologist to speak on how the Iranian Revolution shaped a small village

Posted on April 06, 2016 by Janika Carey

Mary E. Hegland, an anthropology professor at Santa Clara University, will present “Days of Revolution: ‘Aliabad’ of Shiraz in Iran and in the World in the 20th and 21st Centuries” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in Tyson Auditorium in Benedict Hall. A book signing will follow the public lecture, which is sponsored by Sweet Briar’s anthropology and archaeology program.

Days of Revolution cover
Hegland’s talk will focus on her award-winning 2014 book, “Days of Revolution: Political Unrest in an Iranian Village,” as well as other aspects of the fieldwork she conducted in Aliabad, a small village in southwestern Iran, in 1978 and 1979. Hegland and her young daughter spent a total of 18 months living through the Iranian Revolution alongside the villagers. Almost 30 years later, the anthropologist returned to Aliabad to find out how her friends had fared since the revolution. Her book explores village politics, the practice of Shi’ite Islam in a rural context, and the lives of men, women and children during this time of turmoil.

While it is often assumed that Shi’a religious ideology fueled the revolutionary movement, Hegland argues for much more pragmatic reasons, including growing inequality, a lack of development and employment opportunities, and government corruption.

“This is nuanced and long-term ethnographic research at its best,” said Claudia Chang, an anthropology professor at Sweet Briar.

Chang points out that Hegland is the only American researcher to experience the Iranian Revolution from within Iran and revisit the country later.

In a review in Anthropology of the Middle East, fellow anthropologist and author Erika Friedl called Hegland’s book a “refreshingly people-centred account” of the Iranian Revolution.

“This book is a gem in political anthropological writing,” Friedl noted. “No other text about modern Iran provides such clear insights into the relationships among political, economic and cultural factors, between the personal and political, rural and urban dynamics in rapid culture change in Iran.”

“Days of Revolution” was awarded a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) Gold Medal in the world history category and won the 2015 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award, sponsored by Alpha Sigma Nu and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

Hegland received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Binghamton University in the 1980s, conducting her dissertation research in Iran during the days of the revolution. Her current research involves aging and the elderly in Iran, and aging among Iranian Americans in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.

For more information, email Chang at