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Propaganda after Prophecy: The Politics of Truth in Contemporary Iran, 1941-2009


This dissertation examines employments of propaganda and engagement with the politics of truth in contemporary Iran, 1941-2009. It asks if deliberation is an adequate concept for theorizing communication during a crisis of legitimacy. It situates the appearance of propaganda as a predominant mode of communication in the context of a narrative of decline that gained currency in the 1940s: within this narrative, modernity was perceived as indicating the culmination of the end of the prophetic tradition and accompanied legitimation crises during which the totality of social and historical reality was questioned. The concept that gained currency in contemporary intellectual history to name the condition of being after prophecy was a conception of purgatory that was derived from the received history of Islamic philosophy, namely, the barzakh, the condition of the soul dreaming in its sleep. Thus, to be after prophecy was conceptualized as being between the state of sleep and waking life or, rather, a state between the darkness of ignorance and the enlightenment of understanding. By examining the history above, I offer an historically inflected theorization of propaganda, in which I argue that propaganda, in this context, was employed as a mode of communication that restored faith in the world and enacted it anew such that propaganda was a conceptually prior activity to practical deliberation.

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