Iranian Political Satirists

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Iranian Political Satirists

Experience and motivation in the contemporary era
John Benjamins, 2017, Amsterdam

This volume surveys political satire as a journalistic genre in Iran since the latter days of the Qajar dynasty to the present, thus spanning one century and more. It is an important resource, but it also provides an analysis. Moreover, this volume is a rare effort to answer a question that looks simple but is very complicated: “Why would someone produce satire, knowing that this act might be followed by dangerous consequences?”, and to find out what motivates political satirists. For this aim, nine prominent political satirists have been interviewed: writers and cartoonists, men and women, those who live abroad and those who still live in Iran. The author analyses this data in relation to, among other things, the main theories of humor to provide a descriptive report for each satirist’s motivations as well as the strength of each motivational element in a general comparative context.

This book is based on Mahmud Farjami’s Ph.D. dissertation, which he defended in 2014.


·       Acknowledgments | pp. ix–x

·       Chapter 1. Introduction: The book, the topic and the author | pp. 2–12

·       Chapter 2. Tradition and inheritance: Humor and satire in classical Persian literature | pp. 14–37

·       Chapter 3. Modern experience: Political satire in contemporary Iranian media | pp. 40–78

·       Chapter 4. Theoretical approaches to humor and satire | pp. 80–97

·       Chapter 5. A conceptual and theoretical framework | pp. 100–121

·       Chapter 6. Exploring the data: Methodology and process | pp. 124–137

·       Chapter 7. Arriving at insights: Findings from research | pp. 140–159

·       Chapter 8. Drawing conlusions | pp. 162–175

·       Epilogue. Notes and comments on the study | pp. 178–180

·       References | pp. 181–192

·       APPENDIX

·       Appendix | pp. 194–207


·       Index



“Dr. Farjami, a talented self-exiled Iranian satirist, has written an interesting and revealing book on the problems that contemporary political satirists face in Iran, and analyzed their motivations in choosing to be the wayfarers on this dangerous road. Apart from surveying a millennia of Persian satire and analyzing the writings of some Iranian satirists in the light of modern theories of satire, he based his research on interviews with nine satirists, of which only four live in Iran. These interviews are extremely interesting and they shed light on the universal fight of satirist in his or her battle for social justice.”

Hasan Javadi, author of Satire in Persian Literature

“Revealing the rich world and traditions of satire in Iranian culture, this book speaks equally to students of satire, politics and humour. It examines the cutting-edge world of contemporary Iranian satire in full and fascinating detail. At the same time, it illuminates the unbroken links in the “tanz” tradition that reaches back to an antiquity largely unknown to the Western world. This invaluable study by a scholar who practises what he studies frames the authentic voices of his fellow practising satirists with the theoretical and analytical approaches developed by humour studies. An excellent contribution to an important book-series.”

Jessica Milner Davis, University of Sydney

In this fascinating book, which offers readers a glimpse into the long history of political satire in Iran, the author attempts to understand what it is that motivates political satirists. Farjami points out, early in the book, that it is an enhanced version of his PhD dissertation, with two new chapters. One is on classical Persian satire, that is, on satire up to the mid-19th century, and the second is on political satire in contemporary Iran, where satirists faced, and continue to face, the problem of dealing with a hostile political order. His treatment of classical Persian satire discusses some of the more important early political satirists and offers some suggestions about what it was that motivated them. Among the motivations he lists were personal quarrels, attacks on hypocrisy, and attacks on authority figures. We find these satires in ironic narratives and sometimes in mystical texts. Most of the satirists Farjami names, and there are many satirists he mentions, are not people with whom westerners would be familiar.
From a book review by Prof. Asa Berger. Farjami has provided an engaging book that offers valuable insights into the role of political satire in Iranian culture, from its earliest years to present-day theocratic Iran, where the political situation is not conducive to political satirists and humorists of all kinds. One thing we learn from this book is that even when the political situation is hostile, there is something in the human spirit, as manifested in the work of these Iranian political satirists, which resists being suppressed. Ironically, it seems that the more political repression there is, the more artists and writers respond to it with jokes, cartoons, satires and other forms of political humor. (For getting full version click on his face!)