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Thesis Spotlights – Exploring Iranian Urban Everyday Life By Analysing Iranian Cinema

Issue 45: Pandemic (Im)Possibilities vol. 1 Tue 12 Jan 2021

Habib A. Moghimi, PhD student, Australia

Email: habib.moghimi [at] sydney.edu.au
Institution: Department of Sociology and Social Policy, School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney
Time: March 2017 – June 2020
Supervisor: Prof. Catriona Elder

My PhD thesis explores Iranian urban everyday life by analysing Iranian cinema. Many scholars from different perspectives have focused on Iranian society in various political, social and cultural fields, although less attention is still being paid to Iranian everyday life from the perspective of critical studies of everyday life. Moreover, many scholars have investigated Iranian films from macro- and micro-perspectives. Macro-sociological approaches have focused on the social, political and historical structures of Iranian cinema. These researches are done in the field of sociology of cinema. Micro-sociological methods have analysed the representation of different features of everyday life, such as gender representation or consumption, but not daily life. These researches are done in the field of sociology of film. However, to achieve a comprehensive understanding of any social phenomenon we have to make a connection between micro-sociology and macro-sociology. By problematising the concept of everyday life, this research tries to keep its distance from the dualism noted above, and it outlines Iranian urban everyday life. Therefore the thesis constructs an applicable theoretical framework to explore Iranian everyday life by a local approach. Through a new methodological approach, the thesis connects the sociology of cinema and sociology of film in order to make a connection between everyday life and its representation in films.

The theoretical framework consists of the work of various critical theorists of everyday life (i.e. Lefebvre, Simmel, Baudrillard, de Certeau), which enables us to recognise the outline of everyday life and analyse power relations in daily life. By means of a Foucauldian approach I use a problematisation strategy, reading the theories to conceptualise Iranian daily life. Moreover, I connect the theory of everyday life to Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis. I answer the research questions by using the 14 key signifiers that I identify in Iranian cinema studies such as FilmFarsi, Sacred Defense Cinema, Value-based Cinema, Big Production Films, New-wave, Social Films, Children’s films, Entertaining Movies, Festival Cinema, Poetic Cinema, Underground Cinema, Accented Cinema, Independent Cinema, and Art and Experimental Films.

The first research question focuses on the discursive context of cinema and everyday life. Describing the discursive structures of Iranian cinema in different periods enables an in-depth understanding of the role of cinema both as a modern social institution and also as an industry. The second research question focuses on ‘subject positions’ and the processes of representation of everyday life in Iranian films. Discovering the subject positions in Iranian cinema undercovers the subject positions that Iranian cinema discourse creates for the film-makers and the subject positions that film-makers create for the characters of their films. The third question relates to the connections between daily experiences, subject positions, and the social structures located within discourses which shape everyday life. This question explains the problematic Iranian urban everyday life in terms of uncertainty and precariousness. By highlighting the importance of contextuality in everyday life studies, the thesis concludes with methodological suggestions for further research on everyday life and cinema. It also brings up new problems and questions in Iranian studies, in order to gain a better understanding of daily life and social change in Iran.

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