Monshipouri, an international relations professor at San Francisco State University, has assembled twelve essays to examine the social transformation in Iran over the past two decades and to counter "widely held but dubious assumptions about Iranian society, state, culture, and economy." While his own introduction provides a useful overview of some of the social, cultural, and political challenges Iran has faced most recently, the finished product is uneven.
Inside the Islamic Republic comprises four main sections, loosely grouped around political identity; women, family, and human rights; popular culture; and economics.
University of London's Arshin Adib-Moghaddam contributes a valuable chapter examining the evolution of the velayat-e faqih (the guardianship of the jurist), the theological and political concept which, in Iran, justifies clerical rule. University of Minnesota anthropologist William Beeman engages in straw man arguments (often citing his own work to prove the unprovable) to argue that Iran is more of a democracy than a theocracy. University of Houston anthropologist Mohsen Mobasher begins his exploration of U.S.-Iranian tensions with an interesting focus on immigration and the Iranian diaspora community in the United States but undercuts his careful scholarship with a polemical attack on alleged discrimination against American-Iranians, an allegation challenged by the success of the community and by law enforcement statistics. University of Maryland sociologist Mansoor Moaddel analyzes the decline in religion as a framework for Iranian intellectuals in the period after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 death but buries this interesting subject in inaccessible jargon.
Arzoo Oslanloo of the University of Washington effectively explores how the Iranian judicial system treats women and girls. But the University of Virginia's Farzaneh Milani defies belief and logic claiming that the Islamic Revolution brought a literary renaissance among women writers and enabled them to attain the same standing as male writers and poets. Virginia Tech's Djavad Salehi-Isfahani looks at the transformation of the average Iranian family from primarily a rural life before 1979 to today's urban living, with an especially important look at the nexus between declining fertility and higher education. A survey on human rights stumbles over a failure to question whether so-called reformers, such as former president Mohammed Khatami, were sincere and stymied by hardliners, or whether they were engaged instead in an elaborate game of good cop-bad cop.
Analyses of Iranian art films by Hamid Naficy and Nahid Siamdoust are important for those who seek to understand cultural change in post-revolutionary Iran, but they omit any real exploration of more popular Iranian films, many of which are propagandistic and which may better reflect the tastes of ordinary Iranians living under decades of theocratic indoctrination.
An unoriginal study of bonyads (post-revolutionary "foundations" that channel money to the mullahs) is matched by a chapter on "re-mapping the corporate landscape" by Bijad Khajepour, known for his involvement in a consulting company close to Iran's late president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and to the National Iranian American Council, Tehran's de facto lobby. Unsurprisingly, he downplays the dominant role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran's economy, which reduces the value of his study.
While Inside the Islamic Republic includes some fresh material, readers may be hard-pressed to find it because the book often weighs itself down with unintelligible jargon and thick prose, ultimately limiting its audience to a small number of academics, and perhaps those students to whom the contributors assign it for reading.