In the wake of the current media focus on Iran's nuclear technology development and its place in Middle East politics, the West continues its quest to understand this paradoxical nation - its politics, yes, but also its people, their culture, and even the everyday customs and rituals. Among the Iranians presents an inside look at the hidden 'rules' that exist among Iranians, from polite behavior and the underlying cultural notion or face to gender roles to the image that every Iranian wants to project to the world.
Western readers may be familiar with a stereotyped view of Iran's unchanging 'high culture' in its great mosques and squares and to some extent its classical literature in the poems of Hafez and Khayyam. However, this book aims to convey the nitty-gritty of everyday life in Iran: how to queue for bread, how to get a job done in a government office, dress codes and degrees of piety, marriage as a connection between families, the elaborate system of Persian politeness.
Written with a mix of personal observation and intercultural theory, the goal of Among the Iranians is to open people's eyes about the fascinating everyday reality of Iran - in short, the book seeks to explain everything you ever wanted to discover about Iran's culture and customs, but didn't even know to ask.
1 Getting There
2 Relationships and “Face”
3 Minding your Ps and Qs
4 In His Name: Religion and Calendrical Feasts
5 The World of Work and Business
6 Dress and Make Up
7 From the Cradle to the Grave: Education and Health
8 Partners in Joy and Sorrow
9 The Food of Love
10 Going Places, Doing Things
11 The Soul of the Nation
Appendix A: Iran: A Brief History
Appendix B: The Solar and Lunar Calendars and Public Holidays
Appendix C: The Holy Imams
Sofia A. Koutlaki is an independent researcher and writer, born in Athens, Greece, but equally at home in Iran, Britain and Greece. Sofia has made extensive study of how cultures function on a personal and practical level and all her writing stems from this fascination. She has worked for Iran Air at Heathrow Airport, taught English in a secondary school in West London and completed her PhD (Cardiff 1997). After ten years in London, she moved to Tehran, Iran, with her family and lectured at Allameh Tabataba'ei, Al Zahra and Imam Sadeq Universities. Sofia returned to London in 2000 and worked as a specialist language researcher on a three-volume photographic study of Iran's art and culture through history (The Splendour of Iran, Booth-Clibborn Editions, in collaboration with Iran University Press, 2001). Sofia began work on her first book, Among the Iranians, while teaching English in the private school sector. In July 2007, Sofia moved back to Iran in order to complete her book. She currently works as a freelance translator, teaches English and is working on a novel set in her native island of Kassos, Greece.
Praise for Among the Iranians
"An excellent, useful introduction to Iranian culture and customs for people who have never been to Iran."
- Michael Axworthy, author of A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind
"Sofia Koutlaki has opened a window onto ordinary Iranians and their everyday lives. She takes us inside the home, but also out into public spaces, and shows us, with love, an Iran rarely seen by outsiders."
- Ziba Mir-Hosseini, author of Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran, and co-director of the award-winning film Divorce Iranian Style
"A sympathetic and evocative portrait of the Iranian people, their habits, customs and histories.Essential reading."
- Dr. Stephanie Cronin, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford