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Subaltern Consciousness in Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman
October 22, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT
Pedram Partovi, an associate professor of history at American University, is a historian of the medieval and modern Muslim world. His current research focuses on the history of youth movements and their role in creating and disrupting the political order in Iran and the wider Middle East. He previously held a visiting professor position in the Center for Global Islamic Studies at Lehigh University and taught courses at the University of Michigan, DePaul University, and Columbia College. He is the author of Popular Iranian Cinema before the Revolution: Family and Nation in Filmfarsi (Routledge, 2017).
Asghar Farhadi stands apart from many Iranian filmmakers as a critical favorite abroad and commercial success at home. His most recent Persian-language title, The Salesman (2016), exemplifies this dual appeal by both winning an Oscar and the title (briefly) of Iran’s biggest ever hit. This presentation will argue that Farhadi and his collaborators draw on at least two different cinematic universes in The Salesman to simultaneously address the aesthetic and social concerns of Western critics and Iranian audiences. In doing so, the filmmakers and characters model a subaltern consciousness, adapted from Gramsci’s analysis of “subaltern” social groups’ mediating role between the dominant and dominated, that has especially characterized the Iranian middle classes in their relationship with the hegemonic West since at least World War II.