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State of Perpetual Emergency: Legally Codified State Violence in Post-Revolutionary Iran and the Contemporary U.S.


My dissertation is focused on one question from different cultural and historical sites: what is a perpetual state of emergency and how is it used to enact state violence? Generally, I hope for this dissertation to stage an intervention in, and to open questions and investigations around, violence, condemnation, ethics, and the law. More specifically, through this project I seek to read explicit legal state violence in post-Revolutionary Iran to elucidate more implicit legal state violence in the contemporary U.S. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the state does not conceal that it functions as what Édouard Glissant calls a “root model” with hierarchical and fixed moral parameters determining the laws of the country; in fact, the government publicly touts its widespread deployment of violence in order to deter individuals—condemned as enemies—who may try to deviate from, or challenge, the laws. In the U.S., the state rhetorically reinvents seemingly new crises—such as the War on Drugs—to sustain the notion of an enemy warranting the state’s use of violence. While I investigate published texts that pertain to the U.S. system, I have chosen to examine Iranian cinema—rather than published texts—as a venue for critical discourse addressing the issue of state violence. Ultimately, this project proposes the following inquiries: how can a reading of state violence—legal, juridical, rhetorical, and physical—in post-Revolutionary Iran elucidate concealed state violence in the contemporary U.S.? What is at stake when one compares U.S. legal and juridical systems with those of the Islamic Republic of Iran? How can our relation to law be critically and creatively re-imagined?

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