Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Leslie Irvine

Second Advisor

Sanyu Mojola

Third Advisor

Anthony Abiragi


Interpretations of Michel Foucault’s writings on the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 tend toward three basic stances. The critical-explanatory approach argues that an infantile leftistism set Foucault up for an uncritical approval of a backward and premodern Isalmist regime. The interpretive-neutral position refrains from value judgments preferring instead to view Foucault’s reportages as valuable insofar as they reveal lesser-known aspects of his work. Finally, Foucault’s defenders interpret the Iran writings as his movement toward humanism and liberalism, a reorientation, they argue, that ought to absolve Foucault from guilt in the case of Iran. In this paper I survey the existing positions on the reportages and ultimately deliver an alternate explanation. Grounded in the sociology of knowledge, I argue that the case of Foucault and Iran is best understood as Foucault maintaining a sense of biographical coherence in the production of knowledge. Using a theory of intellectual self-concept, I show that three identity traits: the anti-prophetic philosopher; the philosopher of the present; and infatuation with the theme of the revolution drove Foucault toward the Iranian events, and colored his interpretations of it.