Sonic Performances in a Time of Turmoil in Contemporary Iran


  • Amin Hashemi SOAS University of London


This article examines sonic performances that refer to traumatic events in post-revolutionary Iran. It is based on archival and historical research, as well as on interviews with experts and field observations. It compares the sounds of the 1980s with those of contemporary Iran to understand the dynamics of generational transformation of cultural ideas about resilience and resistance. It begins by exploring the quality of resilience in a revolutionary society entangled in an eight-year war. This section examines the official elitist approach to art as ideological resilience. It also maps the dramatic mobilisations of the earlier revolutionary devotees who volunteered for the war. The ideological understanding of religion is compared to an unofficial bottom-up sonic performance of emotional resilience during the 1980s that stems from conventional popular perspectives on religion. Earlier articulations of art as resilience were expressed through the notion of serenity and embodied in a gentle approach to devotion and comprehension. In contrast, cultural resilience gradually transformed into a more antagonistic, segregationist and violent concept. The article reflects on earlier notions of resilience as set against an unstable post-war society defined by cleavage and disintegration. The 1990s was an era of cultural vacuum, political division and militaristic cultural suppression. It was characterised by a degeneration of earlier moral understandings of resilience, the over-flow of militarism into daily life, the top-down politicisation of morality and the de-politicisation of lifestyles. The article concludes with an account of the cultural transformations after 2009.

Author Biography

Amin Hashemi, SOAS University of London

Amin Hashemi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for Media Studies, SOAS. After completing an MA in Tehran, he began his research as a Felix scholar in SOAS, focusing on contemporary popular culture in Iran. His Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary study of the articulation, manipulation and impediments of popular music in Iran since 2013. He has presented at international conferences, such as the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (2017) and the Association of Social Anthropologists (2018).