An Iranian martyr's dilemma: The finite subject's infinite responsibility

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Talebi's essay emerges at the intersection of the state's appropriation of martyrdom and the subject's ethos and act of self-sacrifice, which exceed and transform that appropriation. Through a close reading of two letters sent from the front during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), it contemplates the complex desire of its authors to be simultaneously engaged political subjects and martyrs. The analysis attempts to illuminate the dynamic relationship within the official discourse and that which is reproduced through subjects' interpretations and practices of shahadat. These interpretations are closely tied to the political and existential context of the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution, which despite the harsh political suppression allows for an appropriation of the official views of martyrdom and their evasion, elaboration, or extension. It reveals how a pious citizen utilizes the voice of a martyr to subtly criticize the very state that endorses his views. It also exposes the complex relationships between citizens and state in the Islamic Republic as manifested in the key metaphor of martyrdom. The appearance of the same passage in another letter by another combatant unravels a disjuncture that provides insight into the subjectivity of those who fought and the shared and contested meanings of martyrdom in Iran after the revolution. The essay attempts to offer an interpretation of martyrdom that recognizes the dynamism and complexity of the subjects of the shahid and shahadat instead of reducing them to pathological figures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-196
Number of pages20
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 27 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'An Iranian martyr's dilemma: The finite subject's infinite responsibility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this