Monday, May 14, 2007

God and The State vs. Makeup

The annual spring offensive kicked off three weeks ago, and I'm not talking about the Taliban's. Iran's government has decided to take this year's crackdown on un-Islamic appearance a bit more seriously than usual. During the first four days of the campaign, 150,000 people were questioned in the country, of whose cases 14 were brought to a judicial resolution. The remainder were freed by signing a commitment to be good Muslim citizens (as well as signify that their next infraction would result in their appearance before a judge). More than 3000 women have been detained in the last three weeks for insufficient veils or makeup, as well as have several men for wearing a tie, "un-Islamic" shirts, or western haircuts. Some more photos -- including some pretty creative fashion dissent -- can be found here.

Ironic how Foucault could come to appreciate a state that employs his concept of biopower with such obvious vehemence that it becomes somehow fashionable to ignore it entirely.


Blogger The Sheriff said...

All Iranian men should look like civil engineers. Was this the civil gov. or the guardian council (cf. Plato) Also, I don't understand the last comment. I don't mean that in a snarky way, I just don't get what you mean.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

Foucault famously supported the Iranian Revolution. "By ‘Islamic government' nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clerics would have a role of supervision or control," he once wrote. I just find it ironic that Foucault is so often read (as he should be in my view) for his critique of European "supervision and control" -- what I here perhaps unfairly group with his concept of "biopower" -- while he was so tragically wrong about a state where these mechanisms of power were obvious. So obvious and superficial, it seems to me, that it wasn't nor isn't academically hip to talk about them. Indeed, in Foucault's case -- as in Sartre's with the Soviet Union -- they're so obvious as to prove their exact opposite.

4:53 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

On the one hand, it seems that history has put Foucault's foot in his mouth, Perhaps he would have been into that. Also, the grandiosity of some of his statements at the time as I've read them are a bit over the top... However, on the same token, I think you're letting a particular hindsight undermine the actual complexity of the Iranian revolution. There's a fair bit of historical research I think (thinking particularly of the work of Asef Bayat) that shows a serious popular uprising and desire for drastic structural social-economic change not allied to any particular normative or religious discourses outside of a desire for greater autonomy and recognition of a huge poor class in Iran. The clerics seem, as far as I've read, to come into the picture relatively late in the game, seize up on the already extant dissatisfactions and agitations (which had been happening for years prior) and actually many espoused rather radical lines of socioeconomic restructuring. However, most of these radical clerics were hedged out by (force by) the conservatives/populists, just as the latter defaulted on their claims to actually change anything about the structuring of property, land, resources, etc. Attempts by the poors to actively assert their claims to land, residence, etc. (many empty or half-finished buildings owned or being built by speculators and developers were occupied by students and the poor in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, for instance, calling on the new government to make good) were violently repressed by small groups of either the 'official' Republican Guard or bike-chain armed street thugs getting kickbacks from the radicals. Etc. Etc. Etc. I think that there was a lot of novelty to the Iranian revolution, and indeed a lot of promise that had nothing to do with Islam, either in the terms posed here by the state, or the somewhat essentialized version posed by Foucault in what quotes I could find by him. He wasn't that wrong, Is what I mean to say, especially at the early stages of the game.

On another note, I think that these sorts of actions are more state-repression than the actual deployment of any mechanisms of bio-power. I mean, this is not to say that particular populist and religious elements are not skilled in the ways of the Force, but that these sorts of bans really don't function in the production of any sort of governmentality or self-regulation. They're basically just old fashioned state assholery. I feel that this sort of thing has happened before and the good people of Iran just let that barrier continually slide until they'll be back to business as usual. If it really were bio-power, there wouldn't have been anyone to take to the judge even.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

Mass movements suck and are bad for everyone, Foucault was wrong, Iran SUX. QED.

9:12 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Ouch, pwned

6:45 AM  

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