Islam and the Humanities

Conference 2015

Jamal Elias

Professor of Religious Studies and South Asia studies, University of Pennsylvania

Martyred Innocence: Children, Sacrifice and the Rationalization of War in Modern Iran

This paper focuses on the material and visual culture of Iran during and immediately after the Iran-Iraq war and on the role of childhood in the enactment of national and religious history. Various organs of the Iranian revolutionary regime produced posters, postage stamps, children’s books and other media for a variety of related purposes: in a narrow and obvious sense, such materials played a role in perpetuating the revolution, mobilizing the citizenry in the war effort, and casting the conflict against Iraq in Shi’a cosmological terms. At another level, they helped define the role of children in national events and movements, and served an emotive and aspirational purpose in which the representation of ideal childhood promised ideal adults of the future and thereby a secure national and religious polity.

Jamal J. Elias is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and professor of religious studies and of South Asia studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written and lectured broadly on Islamic thought, history, literature and visual and material culture. Currently, he is working on a book on the construction and representation of childhood in the visual culture of the modern Islamic world.