Dissertation Abstracts

Biographies in Sociology: Discussed and Neglected Points in Autobiographies of Shiite Clergy (Ulama)

Author: Mahdi Soleimanieh, mahdi.soleimanieh@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Tehran, Iran
Supervisor: Sara Shariati
Year of completion: 2019
Language of dissertation: Persian

Keywords: AutoBiography , Religion , Shia Islam , Memory
Areas of Research: Biography and Society , Religion , Clinical Sociology


Autobiographies are considered as considerable sources of data for sociologists in order to understand social changes. This approach in sociology which was known as “autobiographical turn” in the late decades of the twentieth century, is not brought into much attention among Iranian sociologists. In this research, we attempted to study hawzavi autobiographies published in Persian language from the early years after the advent of printing industry in Iran until 1359 H., and extract the neglected and expressed issues in them. Then we aimed to analyze the main themes, central interests and ideas, as well as the present and absent issues of these constructed accounts of the lives of the hawzavis using thematic analysis method. Finally, a sociological typology of these autobiographies is presented based on these data. This typology could be considered as another phase in depicting an image of hawza and its actors as well as their evolution and changes in contemporary Iran. Findings show that masters, fathers and paternal ancestors are the common expressed issues in most of these autobiographies. Transcendental issues and God are clearly more apparent in the older autobiographies, but they gradually diminish and are depicted in a mediated way, and are finally disappeared in the recent decades. In terms of the presence of women, these autobiographies are divided into two categories of “females-expressed” and “females neglected”. The same binary is observed in these autobiographies in terms of economic issues which divides them into two categories of “economy-expressed” and “economy-neglected”. It is finally concluded that, according to the mentioned findings, hawzavi autobiographies are categorized into two general types of “secluded autobiographies” and “social autobiographies”. The presented self in secluded autobiographies is limited to education, worship and a masculine family setting. In contrast, the presented self in social autobiographies is depicted in relation with social issues and a wider network of actors and events; a hawzavi self who is not just hawzavi but a social existence that is ‘also’ hawzavi.