Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Comparative Literary Studies
Toward a Minor Theory of Trauma: Literature and Cinema of Iran-Iraq War (1980-Present)

My dissertation engages with Iranian cinematic and literary representations of war trauma (1980-present) in the context of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). It examines the ways in which the marginalized groups—i.e., ethnic minorities, women, children, and disabled veterans/civilians—in Iran interrupt the official narrative of the war precisely when they attempt to address their psychological or physical traumatic experiences. In Iranian literature and cinema, the events of the war have often been narrated from the viewpoint of a Persian-speaking, selfless, Shi?a, male protagonist. This ideological narrative, through a religious discourse of self-sacrifice, excludes any possibility for acknowledging the haunting war traumas. Over the past decade, however, Iran has witnessed an unprecedented surge of films and literary texts about the war and its aftermath from the viewpoint of minorities—ethnic, gendered, and the disabled. Some of these narratives, although still firmly rooted within the official framework of the war, point to the possibility of alternative readings of the war. In these accounts, there are moments in which trauma, primarily through the suppressed minor languages and/or images of mutilated bodies, finds a way for self-expression. My dissertation starts with canonical war literature and cinema in Iran—i.e., Avini's Chronicles of Victory—and gradually moves toward the representation of the figure of minor at the peripheries. With Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly, my work moves outside the border of Iran into Iraqi Kurdistan. Reading closely through these works, my project argues that a theory of the traumas of the minorities cannot begin by taking for granted the traumatized subject as a monolingual national subject; rather, it must start by acknowledging the already fragmented and multiple subjectivities of the minor. My project precisely attends to such multiplicity in the context of Iran.