Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sacred profanities

This post started as a response to a comment below, where Alireza Doostdar has problematized Iranian.com's "nothing is sacred" slogan. Since my response became too long, I decided to make it into a post:
It was in fact this slogan that initially incited me, some time ago, to object to a cartoon on the pages of Iranian.com which had angered me. In my response to that cartoon, I questioned the way "freedom of speech" had itself become the untouched "sacred," while enabling hate speech. However, later I came to appreciate the possibilities that this idea of questioning anything and everything sacred that Iranian.com's slogan suggests. To me, this slogan means that one can question many notions that are assumed to be "sacred" and remain untouched by many diasporic Iranians. This includes things like the "freedom of speech" (or an abstract notion of "freedom" for that matter), nationalism, heterosexuality, "democracy," "Iranian-ness," and many other issues that people often take for granted and don't think about when they say "sacred." Unfortunately, however, more often than not, it is the hegemonic discourses that easily find their way into the pages of Iranian.com. I just wished that more people would write and challenge some of these taken-for-granted idea(l)s. Even though, Mo has rightly encouraged me to ignore people such as the author of the satiric piece to which I had referred in that post[Muslim fags], unfortunately, I think likes of Baniameri are many. Besides, if we accept, in an Austinian way, that to say things is to do things, then we have to admit that the performativity of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-queer hate-speech does in fact have material effects.
Again, I wish more people would write to create an alternative space of dialogue on the Iranian.com, since it is the largest diasporic Iranian online magazine (and I know that Jahanshah Javid is open to posting those writings as well). But, I also know that we choose our battles and that the academic Fordism in the U.S. doesn’t allow many of us, students of humanities and social sciences, whose work should include cultural critique, to write in response to pop culture. But, writing for (and in response) to popular culture, is perhaps another way to destabilize the binary of “sacred” and “profane.” By giving weight to the profanity (or “vulgarity”) of popular cultural forms such as Iranian.com or blogs (as you [Alireza Doostdar] have eloquently written about), one can challenge the sacredness of the “high culture,” and question the assumed profanity of the “low culture.” It is the “high culture” that many Iranian intellectuals seem to insist on preserving, not wanting to admit that all sacredness is already contaminated… That, I think, is the beauty of life: its paradoxes and its impurity. I am digressing again! In any case, I hope that we take this “nothing is sacred” at its face value and question the sacredness of the “sacred,” whatever that may be.


The sidebar image is taken from Mahmoud Pakzad's "Old Tehran", Did Publishers, 1994. Thanks to Jahanshah Javid (www.iranian.com) for sharing it.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com