Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.
Today we feature Misagh Parsa, Professor of Sociology, and author of Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed (Harvard University Press, 2016). Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as "easily the most important work in English on the Islamic Republic since the revolution," the Times Literary Supplement as "brilliantly argued," and Choice as "erudite and intellectually challenging," Parsa's book analyzes Iran's prospects for democratic reform, given historical events and ongoing challenges.
What is your book about?
The book is about the failure of democracy in Iran over more than forty years. It traces the struggles that led to the 1979 revolution and to the Green Movement that shook the foundation of the Islamic regime but failed to transform Iran's political system.
Where did you get your ideas for this book?
I have studied the economic, social, and political conditions that produced democratization struggles in highly authoritarian countries, such as South Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Nicaragua, and the Philippines over the last half a century. Based on developments in those countries, I developed a theory of democratization through alternative routes of reform or revolution.
What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?
Key to my research are the internet, published newspaper articles, and interviews.
What do you think the library of the future will look like?
While books and articles provided a great deal of historical and theoretical material for my book, the internet helped a great deal on the contemporary developments in the social, economic, and political spheres. Without the internet, I would not have had access to the data and I would have had to wait for a long time to collect the necessary information to analyze and finish my book.
What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?
Raise fundamental, challenging questions, keep searching for data that address those questions, and don't be afraid to draw unorthodox conclusions.
And finally, what do you read for fun?
I continue to be drawn by the dilemmas faced by people who have been unjustly treated and their struggles to liberate themselves and restructure their world. Here again, I read a lot on the internet. I follow some blogs to see people’s problems, their conflicts; the ways in which people understand their situation, and what they are doing to change their world.