Log inskip to content

Assignment: Iran Through Three Lenses

  1. Watch Inside Iran from Sky Sky News (12 minutes). Come to class with notes summarizing the clip.
  2. Watch the first hour or so of Our Man in Tehran and come to class with content rich notes. Be prepared to discuss the following What is interesting? What supports, modifies, or refutes our studies of Iran thus far? What evidence of bias is there? What is omitted from the film? What is (over)emphasized?
  3. Explore Cara Parks’ 2012 “Once Upon a Time in Tehran photo essay from Foreign Policy Magazine. View it as a slideshow (otherwise you need to subscribe to FP). Be sure to read the captions. Come to class with your favorite photo or two and a willingness to share.
  4. Consider as an option, not an assignment, viewing other films (below)
Sky News on Iran

Our Man in Tehran – a revealing series on life inside Iran, with New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink. In this two-night documentary special, Erdbrink shares a rare journey into a private Iran often at odds with its conservative clerics and leaders. The series offers surprising encounters inside the closed society of Iran, as Erdbrink gets Iranians to reveal the intricacies of their private worlds and the challenges of living under theocratic leaders.

Join Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he’s ever visited: Iran. In a one-hour, ground-breaking travel special on public television, you’ll discover the splendid monuments of Iran’s rich and glorious past, learn more about the 20th-century story of this perplexing nation, and experience Iranian life today in its historic capital and in a countryside village. Most important, you’ll meet the people of this nation whose government so exasperates our own.

Iran is opening its doors to foreigners and a train ride from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea is a great way to get to know the country and its people. The travel restrictions that are now being lifted were in place for decades. Many Iranians are hoping they will now be able to lead a freer life – and we meet many of these hospitable and welcoming people on our journey through the Middle Eastern nation. The country’s most important rail link, the Trans-Iranian Railway, runs for approximately 1400 kilometers from the Persian Gulf via Teheran to the Caspian Sea. From DW Documentary.
National Geographic photographer, Alexandra Avakian, sets out to break this stereotype as she goes behind the veils of these women to discover a female community of strong women.She will also delve into Iran’s underground youth culture and travel to her ancestral village in search of the grave of her great-great grandmother.

Why the UK is in the EU

Building & Sustaining Robust Liberal Democracies

Here is my lecture in liberal versus so-called illiberal democracies and my summary of Levitsky and Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die.

Big money in Nigerian music

One of the biggest exports coming out of Nigeria right now is music, with Afrobeats stars such as Davido and Wizkid making it big on the international stage.

Nigerian music is permeating playlists across the world, and its stars have a huge fan base.

Last month, Davido performed in front of thousands at the Wireless Music Festival in London and is due to embark on a US tour later this month.

And Wizkid made history last year by being the first Nigerian solo act to have a sold-out show at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Revenue generation of the Nigerian music industry

Chinese GDP E vs. W


The map above from The Economist in 2010 shows China’s province’s GDPs and lists their nearest equivalent in the international community. The map illustrates the gap between China’s prosperous east and less prosperous west.

New Light On Chinese ‘Reeducation Camps’ For Muslims

41-year-old Sayragul Sauytbay has testified about the existence of a network of “reeducation camps” in western China where she says thousands of ethnic Kazakhs are incarcerated for “political indoctrination.”

Unlike others who’ve fled abroad, saying they’d been forced to endure dehumanizing indoctrination at such camps, Sauytbay was not a camp detainee. She was a camp employee.

Before crossing into Kazakhstan on April 5, Sauytbay had been the head administrator of a kindergarten — a position that, together with her membership of the Communist Party, technically made her a Chinese state official.

She says Chinese authorities had forced her to train “political ideology” instructors for reeducation camps in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

That, she says, gave her access to secret documents about China’s state program to “reeducate” Muslims from indigenous minority communities across western China — mainly Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and Hui.

Read more of the growing pile of evidence.

China hints at three-child policy

Designer Han Meilin (R) poses for pictures as he presents his design manuscript for a Year of the Pig stamp that shows a five-member pig family to Liu Aili, president of China Post, at a ceremony in Beijing, China 6 August 2018


Postage stamps unveiled earlier this week to mark the incoming Year of the Pig in February 2019 have led many social media users to question whether a loosening of family planning restrictions could be imminent.

The stamps show a parent pig couple and three piglets. On the surface, it hardly appears to be a policy announcement. But users on the popular Sina Weibo microblog have pointed out that two years ago, before the one-child policy was abolished, China issued Year of the Monkey stamps featuring two baby monkeys.

And in recent months, the Chinese government has been strongly encouraging couples to have more than one child. Local authorities have even been offering incentives, such as tax breaks, and education and housing subsidies.

Please Vote For Me


Please Vote for Me is a 2007 documentary film following the elections for class monitor in a 3rd grade class of eight-year-old children in the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, China. The candidates, Luo Lei, Xu Xiaofei, and Cheng Cheng, compete against each other for the coveted role and are egged on by their teachers and doting parents. This was reported to be an interesting use of classic democratic voting principles and interpersonal dynamics.

The documentary gives a glimpse into China’s contemporary urban middle classes.

On Obrador’s 2018 Victory

“The outcome represents a clear rejection of the status quo in the nation, which for the last quarter century has been defined by a centrist vision and an embrace of globalization that many Mexicans feel has not served them.” Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins Mexico presidency in landslide with mandate to reshape nation. (Globalism is getting it from all sides.)

+ Here’s more on Obrador’s election from WaPo, including this remarkable detail. “The campaign season has been marked by violence, with some 130 candidates and campaign staff assassinated across the country.”

+ “For the past 12 years, Mexico has fought violent drug gangs by deploying thousands of police, soldiers and intelligence officers to crack down on cartels and their leaders. If its new president-elect gets his way, however, negotiation may replace the hard-line strategy that critics say has only perpetuated violence.”

These links are from Next Draft

Navalny Trolls Putin

Anyone who wants a glimpse of the information wars that could lie in America’s future should have a look, immediately, at Alexei Navalny’s latest video (it’s got English subtitles). The video so annoyed Oleg Deripaska, the video’s oligarch anti-hero, that he has just persuaded Russia’s media regulator to block it. Navalny, Russia’s best known dissident — he tried to run for president but was blocked — so annoys the Kremlin that Muscovites spray-painted his name on their sidewalks after a recent storm, hoping that would persuade municipal authorities to remove the snow. It worked.

Like most of Navalny’s productions, this one is a cross between investigative journalism and a piece of video entertainment, a serious exposé of corruption sprinkled with memes and jokes. But this time the inspiration was unusual. Navalny’s offices are often attacked — by police, by police dressed as “Cossacks,” by “spontaneous” groups of pensioners and, once, by prostitutes (or, in any case, women dressed as prostitutes). They came into his campaign offices, followed by cameramen who just happened to be there, draped themselves over the furniture and then left. This is modern authoritarian propaganda at its purest: The Russian state, at least for the moment, has decided not to arrest Navalny but to mock him, belittle him and undermine him.

This time Navalny flipped the story back at them. Studying the photographs of the women who’d visited their office, his team used facial recognition software to identify one of them as Nastya Rybka, author of “How to Seduce a Billionaire” and purveyor of an Instagram account packed with photographs of Deripaska and his yacht. Close reading of both the book and the pictures, plus a search of shipping and flight manifests, produced another discovery: Rybka and Deripaska had not been alone on that yacht. A senior Russian official, Sergei Prikhodko, a man who has quietly served in multiple Russian presidential administrations since the 1990s, was also on the boat.


Daniel Lazar This is a forum to post articles and to share ideas about my historical and political interests. I hope to provide a valuable resource for my students and to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.