International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 513–528 | Cite as

The Last Episode of an Iranian Teacher’s Bag: Children’s Lives as the Smaller Copies of their Parents’ in Contemporary Iran



How can the desired culture of a dictatorial system be transmitted from one generation to another? The focus of dictators on children could be an answer. Factually in such a system, children are located in a value system which teaches them what to do or what not to do in purpose of being good for the political system since the very beginning of their lives. In Iran, the traditional educational system teaches children to act as adults; people who are able to discern which action is bad and which is good. The exceptions are usually the ones who deconstruct the cultural/political structure and begin to resist based on their agencies. In the present paper, we argue the process of education (formal and informal) in Iran based on two sets of material cultural remains. The first is the Qajar (nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photos of children) and the second is the school compositions of 19 students found in the bag of a teacher who died in the devastating earthquake of Bam in 2003, in South Eastern Iran. The bag was found during a contemporary archaeological project.


Dictatorial systems Traditional society Childhood Educational systems Iran 

They want nothingness—whether they admit it to themselves or not—than a fundamental transformation indeed a weakening and cancellation individual, they do not tire of enumerating and accusing the evil and malignance, the wastefulness, the costliness, the extravagance of the previous form of individual being; they hope to administer more cheaply, less dangerously, more homogenously, and more uniformly, when only large bodies and their limbs remain (Nietzsche 1997).

The Beginning: Tehran, Photography Studio Museum

City Photography studio is a museum located in Tehran. We are visiting the museum and looking at the photos with surprise. All the photos are from Qajar, Iran (1785–1921), and depict Qajar women, men, and children. Most of them have been taken of politicians and rich/influential/prominent families. The portraits of children and women are rare. Men are mostly in long dark costumes and women in traditional female clothing (including head covers/scarves, skirts, and pants). What about children? Girls are just like women and boys like men. Children's photos make us to be surprised. The children appear as minimized models of the adults. How unified and devoid of life are the photos, how far from our imagination of a child are the children; boys in dark male costumes and girls with traditional female scarves and skirts. In some cases (such as Naser al-din shah's Malijak), the child has worn an unusual adult costume (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Malijak. Akaskhaneh Shahr Museum

We wonder why. Why are these photos so uniform with no diversity? Why are people so similar to one another? Why don’t the children practice childhood? The children have been made to pose for the photographs as if they were adults! Is the photographer really the person who commands?

Our investigation of the museum is coincided with our study of the Bam excavation project, an excavation conducted five years after the earthquake (2007). The focus is on Bam’s ruined houses. In one of the houses in a peripheral neighborhood, we discovered 19 essays of 8–9 year-old female students in a teacher’s handbag buried under the ruins. The teacher never read the students’ writings. The topic, “What do you do at home?” portrays a day in the lives of Bam’s girls, students from the society’s lower socio-economic ranks. Having read the writings and extending the study on Qajar and early Pahlavi material culture (especially photos) we understood that in Iran, the definition of child as “the miniaturized model of an adult” has changed into a cultural pattern over a long period of time starting at least from the Qajar period (1779–1925).

Our research investigates the process in the long-term taking “the archaeology of recent past” as the main approach. Qajar children’s pictures can be used as good sources of information on costumes, material culture, and even body gestures. Coupled with the Bam excavation results—especially its material cultural remains—can be used to interpret the meanings and cultural concepts of child and childhood. Bam ethnoarchaeological information is also useful as a complementary source.

Theoretical Perspective

In a society like Iran with long-term experience of traditional and modern dictatorships, explaining the process in which the self is being shaped is complex. Dictatorship makes all aspects of life political. It mandates the control and intervention of all private and public aspects of life (Rush 1992). The dictator system always tends to destroy the self (Canetti 1960) as a dictatorial system expects pure submission. Some individuals, however, resist being the puppets of the system. Thus, the process is comprised of “imposition and resistance.” So, despite the constant attempt of the government to control the citizens’ bodies and minds, some individuals always act as opponents (see Papoli Yazdi et al. 2013). These individuals stop the complete domination of the dictatorship. In this article, the opponents and the ones who resist the system are not accessed. Rather, the ones who obey the system and who reproduce it from the parents to children, from generation to generation, are at hand. Noticeably, this is not a positive/negative, black and white view of Iranian society, but an explanation of a process resulting in a portrait that is ideal for the dictators. Our research investigates the symbolic violence directed against individuality.

Individuality is a controlled dimension of self in dictatorial systems. It is controlled during a process. Each person enters a jungle of symbols after birth and learns a collection of necessities and forbidden items (see Hamner and Turner 1990; Pachler et al. 2009) usually unconsciously. Individuals tend to maintain independence from others and attend to self (Markus and Kitayama 1991). In contrast, the dictatorial system seeks to destroy the existing individuality within people by transforming them into insignificant atoms of the mass (Alpers 2003; Ebenstein 1962). In such a system, the process begins from childhood. The child learns what he/she must do and what he/she must not do within a traditional setting. In most cases, the person doesn’t have any knowledge about the meanings of this value system (Lehtonen 2000). In most cases, the individual has some practical, conscious knowledge (Haugaard 2002; Kus 1984) about the performance of prescribed patterns. Alternatively, he/she will educate his/her children based on this value system. Therefore, such a value system is reproduced generation after generation (see Beng Tan 2006; Bourdieu and Passeron 1990).

A good example is the existence of different words for one concept in Persian. The child learns a certain usage of each word in her/his communication with others. As soon as a child can speak, the adults start the process with telling them sentences such as “hey, you are a real man,” or “a real lady.” Hence, the parents themselves are reproducing themselves and the system in which they have grown up (Fowler 2004). Though the idea of childhood is a modern concept (Ariès 1962) and one certainly linked to post-industrialism cultural, social, and economic changes, but according to the evidence found in Bam, it seems that the idea of controlling the self during childhood is being continued in traditional regions of Iran.

In Iran, boys are supposed to hide their emotions. It is no exaggeration to say that controlling/suppressing is among the first learned items of an Iranian child (Arasteh 1969; Osanloo 2009). As a general process, a person learns to accept some social responsibilities (see Loeffer Friedel 2003) that are normally “unconventional” for his/her age (from either a personal or a public point of view); s/he learns to give up playing, entertainment, and paying attention to oneself (see Ballestrem 2004), especially in the more traditional contexts of small towns, villages, and between ethnic minorities. Therefore, individual creativity is gradually eliminated and a harsh unification process starts to develop (Gregor 2009; Radel 1975). The child unconsciously decides what she/he must be in the future. She/he learns the principles of rank (Kucukaydin 2008) and the proper behavior associated with them. Such principles govern human relations like a formula (Hollander 1988; Welch 2003). They act as a basis for defining bad and good, evil and goodness (see Arthur et al. 2010; Williams 1994).

In a black and white value system in which propaganda clearly designates its borders, if a child doesn’t learn the values in family, she/he learns it in the educational system. Approaches toward order, social conformity, and rivalry are part of this propaganda (Baehr 2010; Westheimer 2009). The Iranian educational system takes students’ individuality and makes them memorize information with ignorance of their interests and talents (see Kandel 1995). It brings about the ruin of individuality and agency, and as a long-term process, it creates a mass society. The subject of this process is usually the “body” as the focus of creating individuality (Podgórecki 1996). Conformity is exerted on the body. Therefore, bodily material culture and even bodily gesture and postures can be studied as with the Qajar photos. The extreme sameness in appearance surprised us.

The process of destroying individuality has not been studied archaeologically in Iran, and data related to conformity is yet to be perused (see Babayan 2002; Rahnema 2011). Although the tendencies toward centralization by the Iranian governments from historical eras to contemporary times have been often discussed, the omission of individuality in the authorization process has not yet been explored. On the other hand, the subject of such studies (conventionally) has generally been adults. In societies like Iran, however, the issue can be investigated through social groups, including children.

In Bam, the excavation of ruined houses revealed the writings of members of a female primary school. The writings show similar behaviors of children after school, while at home. The writings indicate expectations of traditional society that define little girls as mature women. We examined the Qajar and Pahlavi childrens’ photos to investigate process and contextually. The investigation showed that conformity is recognizable even through the childrens’ costumes. It seems that children have been made to enter the adult world from early ages. The substantial number of registered marriages occurring at young ages until the 1950s substantiates this conclusion. As a result, children had to accept responsibilities that were too heavy for their age, since the age of first pregnancy, for instance, could be about 14 even in 1961 (Fathi 1985).

Generally, the dictator oligarchic system and tradition both train individuals in the purpose of omitting individuality. Any confrontation with such a system is described as deconstruction, violation, and sedition leading to social implications, including being rejected (Shlapentokh 2007). The political justice system in dictator regimes tries to focus on the evildoer’s base motives and to punish his or her intention rather than just their acts (Linz 2000).

It should be noticed, though, that in all such processes, the dictatorial system manages to produce soldiers who might resist the systematized pattern. However, as the omission of individuality occurs within the process, and local tradition usually covers its political implications, the change in norms usually takes too much during the process. Sociocultural traditions seriously influence the rate of change.

What you Must Be!!!

The Hafez Abadi house (Fig. 2) is located in Hafez Abad District which has a mixture of middle and low socioeconomic families. Most of the area is covered by palm gardens. Many immigrants, especially those of the lower class, live in this area because of its peripheral position to the city (DezhamKhooy 2011). Mr. Hafez Abadi and his wife Mrs. Qaderi were both educated and worked as teachers. Their family included parents and their two sons, Amin and Mohammad Reza. Mohammad Reza went to kindergarten and his older brother to primary school. Despite being employees, the parents paid much attention to their children. Many kinds of toys, games, sporting equipment, and artworks indicate a high level of attention. Discovered cultural materials such as bills, furniture, and holy books indicate a middle-class religious family. Part of the family income came from palm tree cultivation.
Fig. 2

Hafez Abadi House. (Photo: M. Naimi)

The Hafez Abadi house had four rooms, none of which were private. The living room was used as a room for both the parents and children. The first room is located in the southeastern part of the house and was completely empty of portable artifacts. The second room, in the south, revealed a majority of the material culture. We recovered a bed in this room, suggesting that it was a bedroom. In the same room (Fig. 3), Mrs. Hafez Abadi’s bag was found. This is the bag that contained the students’ homework. The students’ last homework before the earthquake was to write an essay in response to the question “What do you do after going home from school?” None of the Hafezabadi household survived the earthquake (Dezhamkhooy and Papoli Yazdi 2010).
Fig. 3

Hafez Abadi House, Store Room. (Photo: M. Naimi)

Maryam: Leila! what do you think? Why do these photos resemble each other?

Leila: We have a famous Zoroastrian phrase: There is just one way, the way of truth!

This refers to the omission of individuality and choice. It is the language of tradition. The one who speaks is tradition in Iran. Tradition determines how you should behave, wear clothes, and even how you must pose for a picture in a photographic studio. Our tradition is the tradition of conformity. But how? How does it exert and reproduce conformity? The answer: by practice! Tradition needs certain behavioral patterns to reproduce itself. Once a child is born, they practice these patterns over his/her lifetime.

Bam, Jan.2004: A House in the Hafez Abadi Neighborhood

The woman gets up and slowly goes to the back room. The back room is full of odds and ends, from a toolbox to athletic equipment and a dresser. The woman’s husband, Mr. Hafez Abadi is so interested in repairing the household so he has collected many things, believing all of them are useful. Because the house is that of a teaching couple, many educational books are present.

Mrs. Qaderi goes toward a pile of clothes. She takes her uniform and handbag. She gets dressed in silence and prepares herself to go out; it is a cold winter morning.

Mrs. Qaderi (The family names of Iranian women do not change after marriage) enters the third class of the primary school in a deprived neighborhood, puts her bag on the desk, and proposes a writing topic to the girls: “What do you do at home?”

The girls start writing. Elham takes out a slip of paper while thinking of her days at home. Neda is writing on a crumpled piece of paper. Nasiri is a bit tidy; maybe a bit richer. She separates a paper from her notebook and begins to write. Mrs. Qaderi sits on the chair and answer the children’s questions (it should be noticed that the names of the students have been completely copied from their homework and as they had written, so some are referred by their names and some their family names).

Leila: Teacher! Should we write about all the activities we do at home?

Mrs. Qaderi: Thats right!

[after a pause of some time]

Mrs. Qaderi: Children! Just about a quarter has left!

Zainab is the first one. She has written just a few sentences.

Zainab: As soon as I start studying, my mother asks me to make tea.

Maryam: When I come home first, I say hello to mom and do the housework. Teacher! I want to be a doctor or a teacher in the future.

Ranjbar: I do the dishes and cook at home. Sometimes I do washing too. My brothers eye has been injured by a bullet. The doctors decided to cut off my fathers hand.

Elham: My parents are ill. We have to do the housework.

Khakzad: First, I change my clothes, then I serve lunch, next I tidy things up and sweep rooms and the yard, after that I do the dusting and finally I brush my hair.

Nasiri’s writing is slightly different. It is written on a tidy carefully separated piece of paper, in a quite legible handwriting.

Nasiri: I take a rest after school. My mum asks me about the next day's school program. Then she wants me to study and my elder sister helps me.

Moradi has written that she has to do the housework too, in the last part she has promised the teacher to study harder.

Farrokhi: I take a rest at 1 a.m. and then study. I make tea and do the dishes after 7 a.m.

Mozhde: I do the housework after doing my homework.

Khakpour: (Her essay is just like a letter). My mother works out; so, I do the dishes and after that, I can play.

She is the only girl who has talked about playing.

Neda: I do the dishes after lunch, sometimes; I also have to do the washing. My father has passed away, so I cry in my room. Nobody loves me. We dont have TV. I have to bear a lot of pain. Everybody can wear new clothes but I can't. Goodbye, I dont have any more words.

Students are reading their essays (Fig. 4) and the words are familiar to the teacher. She thought
Fig. 4

One of the student’s essays

since they cook and do the dishes at age 9, they must become “perfect women” at 15. Before teaching at the primary school, Mrs. Qaderi used to teach in an adult school, in a small town near Bam called Narmashir. Students’ writings are not actually essays; they are confabulation or even letters, full of agony. The letters depict the days of 9-year-old girls that are spent washing up, sweeping, and cooking.

“We swear to God, teacher, that we have problems, so we can’t study well.” The children cannot be children. Childhood is a strange concept for them; they have never practiced it. They have always been treated like adults. Their lives are just smaller models of their mothers’.

The children, in their short essays, have talked about a father’s broken hand, family problems, a recently escaped father (back from jail), and a deviant brother. They have written about their crises, about their longing for studying. Some students couldn't read their essays out in class, so Mrs. Qaderi gathered all their essays and put them in her bag, 19 sheets of paper in total. Most of the papers are composed of just a few words; most of them are drafts full of mistakes. Some of them even have no names on them. Mrs. Qaderi has a quick look at them; a nameless essay is finished with these words: “I bear terrible pain at home because my father does some bad things, he has just got freed from jail, and we have serious family problems.” Mrs. Qaderi thinks to herself: “I'll take the paper home tonight, maybe tomorrow which is Friday and I am free, I can get round to correct them…I'll give them back their essays on Saturday,” but the Saturday never came. The little girls’ essays remained in the teacher’s bag under the ruins for five years, until a hot summer day when their compatriot archaeologists pulled them out from the ruin and read them over in that back room.

Qajar Era

The Qajar Dynasty (1779–1925) was the time during which Iranians first experienced modernity (Rajaee 2007), when a group of modernized intellectuals gathered to formulate a draft for revising certain principles of the constitution. In mid 1800s, Qajar kings begun to travel to Europe, and this was a way by which modernization—such as photography, cameras (Graber 1997), ballet, concerts, and so forth—could be imported to Iran. However, in the early 1920s, the Qajar Dynasty collapsed, even though modernity and Westernization movements emerged and became reenergized (Naficy 2011).

The monarchy system of Qajar was based on centralization (Amirahmadi 2012) and suppression of opposition even in the form of violent executions (Ansari and Martin 2002). The new materials of life changed the lifestyle of the Qajar people, at least those in Tehran and among the wealthier classes (see Shahshahani 2011). One of the signs of such a change was the love of being portrayed by photographers. Before then, portraits were only painted, and were restricted to the wealthier classes. With the advent of photography, the faces of ordinary people —the elderly, children (Akaskhane Shahr 2006), and women—began to appear in photos.

Tehran, A Photography Studio

Photography studios (Akkas Khane) were places usually used by the upper and middle social classes to take family or individual portraits. High-class people were generally interested in taking portrait of their children, especially their sons. In this research, we investigate Qajar and early Pahlavi photos. The following narration is an imaginative on based on the photos of a photographer working in a late Qajar-period studio taking portraits.

Tehran, Naser Al-din Shah Reign (1848–96): A Photography Studio

The photographer comes out of the darkroom with a photo in his hand, a picture of two boys leaning against the back of a chair. The photographer goes toward his desk and picks up a photo of a middle-aged man on a seat. He smiles with satisfaction whispering “what a beautiful photo! Their faces and gestures are as grave as their honorable father, so are their costumes!”

We are looking at the photos on the wall. Memorizing the “faces” in Bahman Mirza’s family portrait is difficult. The costumes of the women and girls and men and boys are similar; the only difference is in their size. Children are made to be miniaturized models of adults in the photos. The only exception is a scene from Naser Al-din Shah’s hunting ground while a smiling boy is accompanying him. We emphasize again… nobody laughs.

Maryam (categorizing Qajar photo): I always get confused if this child is Ahmad Shah or Mr. Aminis son?

Leila: Because they are quite similarI got confused too; I cant recognize the girls either! I have the same problem with them!

Maryam: You are rightthere is almost no difference between them

Leila: What do you think? Why is that?

February 20, 1892

The photographer speaking: Today a little girl was brought to the studio (Fig. 5). She was between 10 and 12 years old. She was wearing a heavy wedding dress. Her mother
Fig. 5

Dar Olfonon students. Akaskhaneh Shahr Museum

insisted she should not look at the camera, and the girl was obedient. I think mother had trained her very well. Finally, I take a photo of the girl with the solemnity of a middle-aged lady.

February 22, 1892

Today I went to Dar Ol-fonoun School first; Dar Ol-fonoun students were standing in a queue to take a group photo. Students’ costume included a long coat and a Qajar hat; it was the very costume I was wearing. Some costumes were clearly loose. I think they must have once belonged to their elders. The teachers believed the students must be serious to have a good photo. I asked them to look at the lens seriously and steadily. I took 10 photos.

Today, in the afternoon, the Aminis came to the studio to get a photo of their ten-year-old son. The boy had put on a European frock coat, leather hat, and shoes. I sat the little boy on a seat.

Mr. Amini asked me to take a photo appropriate for their social prestige. I told the boy to be solemn and not to look at the camera. It became an excellent photo.

February 28, 1892

Today, I accompanied His Majesty, Naser Al-din Shah, to the hunting ground. The king persisted in having a photo taken with a serious gesture, especially when he was hunting, but the little boy (Fig. 6) botched everything! Finally, when His Majesty was ready to hunt, he destroyed the photo with his sudden laugh. I got so ashamed. It wasn't a good photo. I’m still wondering how a man could laugh that way. A man must be serious and brave. When I compare him to Mr. Amini’s son, I feel terrible! How serious he was. I admire him. He took after his father. His behavior is like a real man.
Fig. 6

Naser Al - din Shah. Akaskhaneh Shahr Museum

February 28, 1892

I want to choose a photo as the best one. I think it is Prince Ahmad Mirza’s photo. He sat seriously in front of me. He posed so professionally that I thought he is a real actor. According to his behavior today, I believe he will be a good king.

Summing Up

The children would always appear in formal gestures and costumes in Qajar photos. Nobody has taken a photo with a slack suit and no child plays or smiles. All the clothes are formal and heavy. For example, a ten-year-old girl has appeared with a wedding dress in a somber mood instead of being naughty and playful while laughing.

“Exclusion of individuality” for the benefit of adults in Iranian traditional culture is meaningfully clear at least since the Qajar period. There is no children-specific costume design, shoes, or even children’s spaces (like private rooms or toys) in Qajar lifestyle. Childish costume design is an imported phenomenon dating back to the Pahlavi era (1925–1979). Although children’s material culture (especially toys and clothes) is produced nowadays, the process of conformity is still continuing in the form of behavioral patterns.

In the essays written by Bam’s children (from low socioeconomic ranks), the absence of material items such as toys or concepts like playing is noteworthy. Altogether, the omission of individuality (Bird 1999; Devane 1948) is a pattern for all social ranks. In urban institutions such as school and mass media, it plays a key role (Arendt 1973), as it does in low socioeconomic-rank families (often unconsciously).

Research demonstrates that in the middle classes the situation is a bit different, as the children can often practice childhood. On the whole, conformity crossed class borders, it influenced everyone, from Ahmad Shah (last Qajar King) to the Bam children, from the Qajar children to Bam’s little girls. Ahmad Shah, a ten-year-old boy, appeared in the shape of a man, and a nine-year-old Bami girl acted as a woman, with her essays being confiding. The writing style of such essays has the style of a housewife from the lower class rather than that of a child. The earthquake, very probably, took the life of most of the little girls and their teacher’s. (Ethnoarchaeological research of lower classes’ residential architecture indicates that it was instable and bore the highest level of destruction). Even if the children had survived, could they live like children?

Contemporary excavations show that the childhood period in Bam, especially of lower-class girls is short, usually covering the ages before school. An external viewpoint of childhood is clearly expressed in clothing, behavior, and even the speaking of desires. The use of Hijab (cover) for children is one of the best proofs supporting the issue.

The typical ways of treating children cannot be easily explained according to the social understandings of the age because it is a kind of reductionism. In a traditional structure interested in conformity, age is a conventional concept whose meanings and borders are changed whenever any opposition to the structure appears. In addition, a child does not have an adult’s intellectuality, even though she/he must behave like an adult.

Altogether, the removal of individuality is a benefit to a closed structure interested in dictatorship, dominance, and control (Ciepley 2006; Spielvogel 2010). Such structures create individuals without individuality. Such a person can easily be a puppet in the hands of the dictatorship.

Dictatorships appear in traditional societies (Friedrich 1964). Tradition makes for submissiveness, passivity, and the omission of what is natural in people’s minds (Corner 2009; Peterson 2004). Censorship (McCormick and MacInnes 2006) manifests itself in children’s lifestyles, in gestures, bodily postures, costumes, behavior, and what creates personality and self. Censorship mostly influences the body. Once it controls the body, individual life, movement, and experience domains reduce dramatically; hence, playing turns into a strange concept for Bam little girls as does smiling for Qajar’s children in the photos.

Exerted limitation is practiced by traditional patterns, making the child ready for more submission in the future. Among all the photos, only one person is really himself: a boy posing with a gun and laughing easily. His gesture and laugh deconstruct the structure of conformity. Hypothetically, Naser Aldin Shah is the subject of this photo but the boy’s smile breaks his “discursive presence” and makes the eyes of the viewer turn toward him.

Discussion: Removing Individuality Ex Parte Dictatorial System

The concept of children as small adults has been observed archaeologically in traditional societies (e.g., Park 1998). Though it can be hypothesized that in a complicated dictatorial society such as Iran, the children learn long-life stereotyped roles in a process of socialization (see Baxter 2005). The frameworks of which can be elucidated as socialized behavioral frames of use for the system.

Dictatorship needs mobilization more than anything (Arendt 1968). It requires people who develop and upgrade the ideological nature of the dictatorship and are always ready to self-sacrifice for it. In such an atmosphere, child must learn, however unconsciously, to put themselves in a second-degree ex parte dictatorship. The child does not practice playing with toys and to move from practice to praxis from the beginning (for dictator practice, see Sartre 1985; also see Baxter 2005; Makariev et al. 1999). She/he must bring up another infant: his/her brother or sister. In such praxis, the child is set within an endless process of signification, a circle with no end. She/he learns to transfer her/his learning to her own child. Taken together, both the Qajar-Pahlavi data and the essays unearthed in the course of the excavation bespeak similar atmospheres, albeit with a 100-year-time difference.

During this period, the reproduction of the control of individuality can be recognized. The center of this space is the dictator monologue (Brueggemann 1991; Makariev et al. 1999; Mole 1997). This monologue shows itself in behavior such as clothing and social appearance; cultural elements subtly transferred as traditions. The child is encouraged to be serious. The word “smile/laugh” is sometimes replaced with an informal, fairly impolite Persian phrase: “your mouth is always open.” Costumes are usually of a limited color range, and they are the smaller version of the adults’ dress. The child faces a top-down monologue commanding what he/she must and must not do. Differences, even if they exist, tend to be homogenized (Adams 2001). Therefore, the child is involved in an eternal circle of signs whose objectivities are associated with a reward and punishment system. To obey this system is necessary for survival.

In Persian, words such as “childish” (Bacheghaneh), “child” (Bacheh), and so forth are metaphors to indicate inexperience and simplicity, not necessarily purity. A person who behaves honestly, expresses their emotional outlets or practices freely is called a “child.” The general behavioral framework of a child is rather defined: only one way is possible. According to this framework, the child misses the possibility of various other experiences.

To create a self-reproductive circle, dictatorship positions “individuals” in an endless chain of monologues that never end even by death. The deployment of these concepts in language puts the child in a jungle of symbols that are not necessarily objective. Such a training process changes the Iranian child to a bitter, complex, actor-like, humorous yet serious person. This special kind of death, called janfeshani [lit., dedicating one’s life willingly], can appear in death as territorial integrity. This is called “martyr,” and is a particular ideology or reproduction of new soldiers.

On the other hand, people as the main objects of dictatorial violence ensure the practical survival of the dictatorship. They transfer the dictatorial ideal lifestyle most of them have institutionalized as cultural traditions generation by generation. The child finds deconstruction the only practical alternative for survival. If he/she wants to be freed from the training circle that has entirely surrounded them, he/she must escape the logic that caused them to experience the stifling situation during their whole life. That is why most Iranian deconstructionists encountered irreversible social punishments and severe backlashes (see Dabashi 2001).



We should first disclose that English is not our native language, and that we received considerable editorial assistance from La’ya Alinia and Mohammad Amerian. We convey our gratitude to Omran Garazhian, Mariam Naeimi and Arman Masoudi.

Any errors in this paper remain our own.


  1. Adams, I. (2001). Political Ideology Today, Manchester University Press, Manchester.Google Scholar
  2. Alpers, B. L. (2003). Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture: Envisioning the Dictator Enemy, 1920s-1950s, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  3. Amirahmadi, H. (2012). The Political Economy of Iran Under the Qajars, I.B. Tauris, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Ansari, S. F. D., and Martin, V. (2002). Women, Religion and Culture in Iran, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  5. Arasteh, A. R. (1969). Education and Social Awakening in Iran, Brill, Leiden.Google Scholar
  6. Arendt, H. (1968). Dictatorship: Part Three of The Origins of Dictatorship, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego.Google Scholar
  7. Arendt, H. (1973). The Origins of Dictatorship, vol. 2, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego.Google Scholar
  8. Ariès, P. (1962). Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, Jonathan Cape, London.Google Scholar
  9. Arthur, J., Gearon, L., and Sears, A. (2010). Education, Politics and Religion: Reconciling the Civil and the Sacred in Education, Taylor and Francis, London.Google Scholar
  10. Babayan, K. (2002). Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran, Harvard University, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  11. Baehr, P. (2010). Hannah Arendt, Dictatorship, and the Social Sciences, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto.Google Scholar
  12. Ballestrem, K. G. (2004). Dictatorship in eastern Europe and its consequences, a theoretical perspective. In Maier, H. (ed.), Dictatorship and Political Religions, Routledge, London, pp. 216–226.Google Scholar
  13. Baxter, J. E. (2005). The Archaeology of Childhood: Children, Gender and Material Culture. AltaMira, Lanham, MDGoogle Scholar
  14. Beng Tan, C. (ed.) (2006). Southern Fujian: Reproduction of Traditions in Post-Mao China, Chinese University Press, Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  15. Bird, C. (1999). The Myth of Liberal Individualism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  16. Bourdieu, P., and Passeron, J. C. (1990). La reproduction, Sage, London.Google Scholar
  17. Brueggemann, W. (1991). Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  18. Canetti, E. (1960). Crowds and Power, Claassen Verlag, Hamburg.Google Scholar
  19. Ciepley, D. (2006). Liberalism in the Shadow of Dictatorship, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  20. Corner, P. (ed.) (2009). Popular Opinion in Dictator Regimes: Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  21. Dabashi, H. (2001). Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, and Future, Verso, London.Google Scholar
  22. Devane, R. S. (1948). The Failure of Individualism: A Documented Essay, Browne and Nolan, Dublin.Google Scholar
  23. Dezhamkhooy, M. (2011). The interaction of body, things and the others in constituting feminine identity in lower socio-economic ranks of Bam, Iran. Archaeologies 7(2): 372–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dezhamkhooy, M., and Papoli Yazdi, L. (2010). The archaeology of last night … what happened in Bam (Iran) on 25–6 December 2003. World Archaeology 42: 341–354.Google Scholar
  25. Ebenstein, W. (1962). Two Ways of Life: The Communist Challenge to Democracy, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Salt Lake City, UTGoogle Scholar
  26. Fathi, A. (1985). Women and the Family in Iran, Brill, Leiden.Google Scholar
  27. Fowler, C. (2004). The Archaeology of Personhood: An Anthropological Approach, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  28. Friedrich, C. J. (1964). Dictatorship, Grosset and Dunlap, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Graber, O. (ed.) (1997). Muqarnas: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture, Brill, Leiden.Google Scholar
  30. Gregor, A. J. (2009). Marxism, Fascism, and Dictatorship: Chapters in the Intellectual History of Radicalism Review, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA.Google Scholar
  31. Hamner, T. J., and Turner, P. H. (1990). Parenting in Contemporary Society, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  32. Haugaard, M. (2002). Power: A Reader, Manchester University Press, Manchester.Google Scholar
  33. Hollander, P. (1988). The Many Faces of Socialism: Comparative Sociology and Politics, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  34. Kandel, I. L. (1995). The New Era in Education: A Comparative Study, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.Google Scholar
  35. Kucukaydin, I. (2008). Counter-Learning Under Oppression, ProQuest, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  36. Kus, S. (1984). The spirit and its burden: archaeology and symbolic activity, in Spriggs, M. (ed.), Marxist Perspectives in Archaeology Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 72–101Google Scholar
  37. Lehtonen, M. (2000). Cultural Analysis of Texts, Sage, London.Google Scholar
  38. Linz, J. J. (2000). Dictator and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  39. Loeffer Friedel, E. (2003) Iran and Afghanistan: gender organization, in (Suad J. and Najmabadi, A. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Family, Law, and Politics, Brill, Leiden, pp. 199–201Google Scholar
  40. Makariev, P., Blasko, A. M., and Davidov, A. (1999). Creating Democratic Societies: Values and Norms, CRVP, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  41. Markus, H. R., and Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review 98: 224–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McCormick, J., and MacInnes, M. (2006). Versions of Censorship, Transaction Publishers, Salt Lake city.Google Scholar
  43. Mole, G. D. (1997). Lévinas, Blanchot, Jabès: Figures of Estrangement, University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  44. Naficy, H. (2011). A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 1: The Artisanal Era, 1897–1941, Duke University Press, Durham, NC.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nietzsche, F. W. (1997). Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (Clark, M. and Leiter, B. eds.), Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  46. Osanloo, A. (2009). The Politics of Women’s Rights in Iran, Princeton University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  47. Pachler, N., Bachmair, B., Cook, J., and Kress, G. (2009). Mobile Learning: Structures, Agency, Practices, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  48. Papoli Yazdi, L. (2010). Public and private lives in Iran: an introduction to the archaeology of the 2003 Bam earthquake. Archaeologies 6: 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Papoli Yazdi, L., Dezhamkhooy, M., and Naeimi, M. (2013). A report on a party and the guests. Archaeologies 9: 132–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Park, R. W. (1998). Size counts: the miniature archaeology of childhood in Inuit societies. Antiquity 72: 269–281.Google Scholar
  51. Peterson, J. (2004). The history of the concept of dictatorship in Italy. In Maier, H. (ed.), Dictatorship and Political Religions, Routledge, London, pp. 3–25.Google Scholar
  52. Podgórecki, A. (1996). Dictator and Post-Dictator Law, Oñati International Series in Law and Society, Dartmouth digital publisher Dartmouth College, Hanover,NH.Google Scholar
  53. Radel, J.-L. (1975). Roots of Dictatorship: The Ideological Sources of Fascism, National Socialism, and Communism, Crane-Russak Solna, Sweden.Google Scholar
  54. Rahnema, A. (2011). Superstition as Ideology in Iranian Politics: From Majlesi to Ahmadinejad, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rajaee, F. (2007). Islamism and Modernism: The Changing Discourse in Iran, University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  56. Rush, M. (1992). Politics and Society: An Introduction to Political Sociology, Prentice Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  57. Sartre, J. P. (1985). Critique de la raison dialectique, Gallimard, Paris.Google Scholar
  58. Shahr, A. (2006). The children of yesterday, Akaskhaneh Shahr Museum, Tehran.Google Scholar
  59. Shahshahani, S. (2011). Cities of Pilgrimage, LIT Verlag Münster, Hamburg.Google Scholar
  60. Shlapentokh, D. (2007). The Proto-Dictator State: Punishment and Control in Absolutist Regimes, Transaction Publisher, Salt Lake cityGoogle Scholar
  61. Spielvogel, J. J. (2010). Western Civilization: A Brief History, vol. 2, Florence, Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  62. Welch, D. (2003). Why we fight?, in (Cull, N. C., Culbert, D. H., and Welch, D. (eds.), Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA, pp.426-428Google Scholar
  63. Westheimer, J. (2009). No child left thinking: democracy at risk in American schools and what we need to do about it, in (Shapiro, H. S. (ed.), Education and Hope in Troubled Times: Visions of Change for Our Children’s World, Routledge, London, pp.259- 271Google Scholar
  64. Williams, G. L. (1994). Fascist Thought and Dictatorship in Italy’s Secondary Schools: Theory and Practice, 1922–1943, Lang, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Near Eastern Archaeolgy Freie UniversityBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyBirjand UniversityBirjandIran

Personalised recommendations