Power, Legitimacy and the Public Sphere : The Iranian Ta’ziyeh Theatre Ritual book cover
1st Edition

Power, Legitimacy and the Public Sphere
The Iranian Ta’ziyeh Theatre Ritual

ISBN 9780367085414
Published October 25, 2018 by Routledge
178 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

A ground-breaking study of political transformations in non-Western societies, this book applies anthropological, sociological and political concepts to the recent history of Iran to explore the role played by a ritual theatrical performance (Ta’ziyeh) and its symbols on the construction of public mobilisations. With particular attention to three formative phases – the 1978–79 Islamic Revolution, the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq War, and the 2009 Green Movement – the author concentrates on the relations between symbols of the ritual performance and the public sphere to shed light on the ways in which the symbols of Ta’ziyeh were used to claim political legitimacy. Thus, the book elucidates how symbols and images of a ritual performance can be utilised by ‘tricksters’, such as political actors and fanatical religious leaders, to take advantage of the prolongation of a state of transition within a society, and so manipulate the public in order to mobilise crowds and movements to fulfil their own interests and concerns.

An insightful analysis of political mobilisation explained in terms of a set of interrelated master concepts such as ‘liminality’, ‘trickster’ and ‘schismogenesis’, Power, Legitimacy and the Public Sphere integrates theoretical, empirical and ‘diagnostic’ perspectives in order to investigate and illustrate links between the public sphere and religious and cultural rituals. As such, it will appeal to scholars of sociology, politics and anthropology with interests in social theory, public mobilisations and political transformation.

Table of Contents

List of Figures




Chapter 1: Proposing democracy in Iran: The empty place of power and the public sphere

Chapter 2: Ta’ziyeh origins, dimensions, and its power in forming the public sphere 

Chapter 3: Ta’ziyeh and the public sphere during the 1979 Revolution

Chapter 4: Ta’ziyeh and the public sphere during the Iran-Iraq War

Chapter 5: Ta’ziyeh and the public sphere during the 2009 Green Movement






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Amin Sharifi Isaloo is a lecturer and tutor in the Department of Sociology at University College Cork, Ireland.


‘This book provides a novel reading of key political events that marked Iranian political history from the Islamic Revolution until today. However, the book does much more than that: it introduces a series of novel insights and conceptual approaches that invites wider reflection on the theatrical nature of the public sphere and the problematic role of ritual and images in the ‘management’ of political transition. The book deserves a wide readership in both area studies and social, political and cultural theory.’ - Bjørn Thomassen, Roskilde University, Denmark

'Power, Legitimacy and the Public Sphere is a remarkable study of performative practice and political transformation in a non-Western context. Amin Sharifi Isaloo provides an interdisciplinary and original account of Shia Islamic rituals of Ta’ziyeh, as a symbolic milieu of collective action, and the public sphere in redefining the political in complex ways. This is an important book for those interested in ritual studies, the sociology of culture and collective action.' - Babak Rahimi, UC San Diego, USA