An artistic reaction to perceived injustice: Cartooning, resistance and textures of the political in Iran
This essay explores the articulations of power, resistance, and aesthetics through an analytical description of cartooning in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Empirically, this text is based on my ethnographic research with cartoonists (and caricaturists) in Iran over the last five years. After a brief overview of the history of political satire in Iran, this essay sketches an ideal-type taxonomy of cartooning-as-resistance in Iran (closely based on my interlocutors’ conceptualisations of cartooning as an artistic reaction to perceived injustice). Reformist cartoonists criticise the regime for what they see as excesses of repression; revolutionary cartoonists attack (various versions of) “the West” for what they perceive as its imperial cockiness, its dubious occupation of the moral high ground and its ethical double standards; non-political cartoonists want to refrain from all critiques and distance themselves from overly simplistic binaries such as reformists versus revolutionary. Disentangling the complex simplicity of different types of cartooning-as-resistance and the antagonisms they actualise can offer insights into textures of the political terrain in Iran.