The Other Self : representations of Afghans in Iranian cinema




Entezari, Mahyar

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This dissertation examines the image of the “Afghan” in films by Iranian filmmakers produced primarily from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. The films, most of which are about the Afghan refugee community in Iran, are studied in relation to the contemporaneous policies and rhetoric of the Islamic Republic regarding Afghans and Afghanistan, as well as in relation to trends in Iranian nationalism and in constructs of national identity. Aside from explaining how the films participated in contemporary debates about the Afghanistan crisis and about Iranian national identity, my project addresses the reasons for which filmmakers engaged with Afghan subjects in their works. My findings demonstrate that, in addition to an interest in raising awareness about the situation of Afghans (both in Afghanistan and in Iran) and in challenging the dominant constructs of national identity based predominantly on Shi‘ism, the international critical reception and financial success of The White Balloon (1995) and Taste of Cherry (1997) were critical factors that motivated Iranian filmmakers. Furthermore the representations in those two films and others—such as Djomeh (2000), Delbaran (2001), and Baran (2001)—of the Afghan “Other” as an integral, productive member of a multicultural society reflect what Stuart Hall refers to as a new “regime of representation” as well as “multi-cultural” drift in Iranian society since the 1990s


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