Anthony Alessandrini, “Rescuing the Revolution from Its Outcomes”, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World, March 23 2017
Part of a Book Symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, 272 pp., $27.00 US (pbk), ISBN 9780816699490.
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment is an exemplary book in a number of ways, but perhaps first and foremost because of what the book does not do. While it represents the most extensive and sympathetic consideration in English of Michel Foucault’s writings on the events leading up to and culminating in the Iranian Revolution, Ghamari-Tabrizi does not fall into the commonplace critical practice of arguing whether Foucault was “right” or “wrong” about the revolution and its aftermath. More admirably, Foucault in Iran is not satisfied with performing the subtler but still ultimately familiar work of simply asking what Foucault’s writings on Iran can do for us in analyzing our contemporary context. Instead, the book performs Ghamari-Tabrizi’s scrupulous allegiance to what he finds most valuable in Foucault’s work: his insistence upon recognizing “the singularity of the revolution” and the concomitant need “to liberate it from the constraints of universalist narratives” (75). By doing so, he manages to contribute not only a new and significant understanding of Foucault’s late work on ethics, but also an important re-historicizing of the Iranian Revolution for an audience that very likely needs this re-telling. It is on this notion of singularity as Ghamari-Tabrizi reads it out of Foucault’s work, as well as out of the revolution itself, that I will thus focus on in my contribution to this roundtable