In Week 11, one of the central points of discussion was the Iranian Revolution, which lasted from 1977 to 1979 and was a mostly-nonviolent shift that exiled Mohammad Pahlavi and established Ayatollah Khomeini as the head of a new Islamic Republic. It is anti-Western, totalitarian, and uses Shi’ite Islamic law. As noted in Buchman’s “Shi’ite Islam in Contemporary Islam,” Iran experiences a sharp disconnect between its Westernized stores and surroundings and its strict government-mandated code of dress and behavior.

Given how heavily Islam involves symbols and its belief that Allah is manifest in natural and manmade creations, I was interested in the iconography and propaganda that emerged around the Iranian Revolution. In “The Art of Revolution and War,” Chelkowski writes how Shi’ite teachings suffused posters and billboards and became powerful transmitters of a political ideology. These missives streamlined the ruling agenda in a country where most people, pre-Revolution, were illiterate. Artists sought to subvert and oppose the status quo, in more ways than just the “traditional” merged with the “modern” that scholars usually discuss. Their images were complex, specific, and bold. They pursued an “insurgent consciousness,” and from the readings, we see the repetition of symbols such as the face of Khomeini and the clenched, punching fist. Their images do not promote a juxtaposition of issues – rather, symbolism flows naturally and in many layers, like the poster depicting Zeinab, which simultaneously encourages women to oppose the Pahlavi monarchy, and encourages the shattering of the Shah’s crown.


I created a poster to explore this phenomenon for myself and see just how universal these strategies are. I drew the majority of my inspiration from the “Poster with a chained hand” on page 93 of “Multiple Iconographies” by Haggai. The poster advocated the movement “towards a classless tahwidi society,” a kind of unified classlessness for the people. As a racial revolution occurs in America and Harvard debates the validity of its final clubs and the role of its white patriarchy, I thought this was an especially fitting message. Harvard, within the context of the United States, is also grappling with being anti-colonial, like the Shi’ite Muslims were, and being dismantling its pervasive class structure, like “tahwidi” in this context is saying. The fist in my poster, which has its own storied history as a symbol of solidarity, especially with the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, is akin to the “clenched fist freeing itself from the chains of bondage” (93). Both are fighting for a communal right and breaking away from oppression. On the upper right of my poster, I have drawn a picture of Dean Khurana who is leading this movement, like Khomeini in the original illustration. On the lower right, I have drawn black tape, which symbolizes the hate crime against the black professors at the Harvard Law School last year, and on the lower left, I have drawn the façade of a Harvard final club, which is one of the movement’s major problems. And finally, on the top left corner, I have written #BlackLivesMatter, which is the equivalent of “towards a classless tahwidi society.”

In doing so, I am engaging both the modern Black American revolution and the Iranian Revolutionary spirit.