Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 13–26 | Cite as

A virtual game and the actual Islamic rule: the recent presidential election in Iran

  • Manuchehr Sanadjian


The paper looks at the presidential election and the unrest that followed the declaration of its results in Iran in June 2009 as a disruption of an officially organised play by the voters equipped with a heuristically devised game. The play was designed to make the ruled confirm the Islamic identity they purportedly shared with their rulers which overrode the difference between the loser and the winner. Entering the election as the virtual space of a game, voters were able to drive a wedge between the candidates selected for them as ‘good players’ by playing them off one another as the ‘reformer’ versus the ‘hardliner’. The game was enhanced by the fierce competition among the ‘good players’ over access to Islamic faith as a privilege. The played out difference between the candidates allowed for a gap, forbidden under the Islamic rule, to emerge between the represented and representative that is the condition for politics. The consequent appearance of the represented as a subject that was spoken for undermined the rule in which the ruled were only spoken of by their rulers. The sudden public appearance of the represented became less tolerable at the time when it needed to be represented by the ruling mullahs pursuing a shared nuclear ambition, a necessity that spoiled the voters’ virtual game at some human cost.


Presidential election in Iran Virtual space Actual Islamic rule Power Society Faith as a privilege The right of the citizen Civil society Egoistic calculations Play Game Symbolic capital Representation Represented Spoken for Spoken of Identity Truth Opinions Ruled and rulers 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester UniversityManchesterUK

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