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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2021
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Book description

The dominant narrative of Iranian society and politics heralds the reformist movement as the epitome of Iran's transition to secularity, while conservative political forces are positioned as advocates of Islamization and a bulwark against secularization. Examining all the presidential elections since the revolution, Mahmoud Pargoo and Shahram Akbarzadeh argue that in contrast, political and cultural imagination and expectations in Iran have actually secularized regardless of the reformist/conservative divide. Exploring the evolution of campaign discourses from the 1980s elections which brought Abolhassan Banisadr, Mohammad-Ali Rajai and Ali Khamenei to power, to the more recent campaigns of Mohamad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani, this book suggests that current debates in Iranian domestic politics are not between secularists and their opponents, but rather, between different kinds of secular forces.


‘Using national elections as a framework to explore the discourses around political trends in Iran from 1979 to the present, Mahmoud Pargoo and Shahram Akbarzadeh explore core questions about how different versions of secularism have evolved and competed in Iran over the last forty years. Offering nuanced understanding of Iranian politics, rather than simplistic notions of the religious hardliners vs. the reformists opposition, this is an important text for students of Middle Eastern, Iranian and comparative electoral politics.’

Kamran Scot Aghaie - University of Texas at Austin

‘Amid all the noise about Iran, here is a serious work that explores an understudied facet of Iranian politics. Through their deep dive into Iran’s presidential elections, Pargoo and Akbarzadeh examine the discourse of the campaigns and show the increasing secularization of Iranian politics. This is a work of tremendous importance and an essential read for anyone interested in better understanding contemporary Iranian politics.’

Mehran Kamrava - Georgetown University Qatar

‘The book is an excellent manifestation of social science inquiry into structural and sociocultural transformation in post-revolutionary Iran. … Recommended.’

A. R. Abootalebi Source: CHOICE

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