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Rumor as Political Communication in Modern Iran

April 10, 2013
12:00PM - 01:30PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Categories: Seminar

In this talk, Dr. Pedram Partovi will consider the place of rumor in recent Iranian history. In general, scholars have associated the work of rumor with pre-modern societies – before the emergence of national ideologies or mass political organization (with the mass media contributing to these phenomena). However, rumor has held a vital role in political communication and mobilization in modern Iran. Some attribute the rumor’s prominence in Iran to an “underdeveloped” political culture.

Dr. Partovi argues that this dependence on rumor can be linked to the prevalence of authoritarian political systems in Iran since before the Second World War – a situation that development experts and Western leaders had initially accepted and encouraged. Thus, the public has been largely dependent on rumors for stories of local and national concern considered unfit for print or broadcast. Frequently, these rumors are then reported in the press and on state broadcasts.  It is in part through this inversion of the news process that the general public has been drawn into national politics. 

This talk will examine the work of rumors and their media representations during four critical events of the past thirty years – the Islamic revolution of 1978-1979, the death and succession of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, the 1999 student revolts, and the 2009 post-election crisis.

His research interests focus on the ways in which pre-modern social practices and institutions are reworked through the mass media to make sense of the present in Iran and wider Persianate world.