In Precarious Lives, Shahram Khosravi attempts to reconcile the paradoxes of Iranians' everyday life in the first decade of the twenty-first century. On the one hand, multiple circumstances of precarity give rise to a sense of hopelessness, shared visions of a futureless tomorrow, widespread home(land)lessness, intense individualism, and a growth of incivilities. On the other, daydreaming and hope, as well as civility and solidarity in political protests, street carnivals, and social movements, continue to persist. Young Iranians describe themselves as being stuck in purposelessness and forced to endure endless waiting, and they are also aware that they are perceived as unproductive and a burden on their society. Despite the aspirations and inspiration they possess, they find themselves forced into petrifying social and spatial immobility. Uncertainty in the present, a seemingly futureless tomorrow: these are the circumstances that Khosravi explores in Precarious Lives.
Creating an intricate and moving portrait of contemporary Iranian life, Khosravi weaves together individual stories, government reports, statistics, and cultural analysis of art and literature to depict how Iranians react to the experience of precarity and the possibility of hope. Drawing on extensive ethnographic engagement with youth in Tehran and Isfahan as well as with migrant workers in rural areas, Khosravi examines the complexities and contradictions of everyday life in Iran. Precarious Lives is a vital work of contemporary anthropology that serves as a testament to the shared hardship and hope of the Iranian people.
Shahram Khosravi is Professor of Anthropology at Stockholm University. He is author of Young and Defiant in Tehran, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press, and "Illegal" Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders.