Book ID: CBB578861566

Underground: The Secret Life of Videocassettes in Iran (2021)


Blake Atwood (Author)

MIT Press

Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 264
Language: English

In 1983, the Iranian government banned the personal use of home video technology. In Underground, Blake Atwood recounts how in response to the ban, technology enthusiasts, cinephiles, entrepreneurs, and everyday citizens forged an illegal but complex underground system for video distribution. Atwood draws on archival sources including trade publications, newspapers, memoirs, films, and laws, but at the heart of the book lies a corpus of oral history interviews conducted with participants in the underground. He argues that videocassettes helped to institutionalize the broader underground within the Islamic Republic. As Atwood shows, the videocassette underground reveals a great deal about how people construct vibrant cultures beneath repressive institutions. It was not just that Iranians gained access to banned movies, but rather that they established routes, acquired technical knowledge, broke the law, and created rituals by passing and trading plastic videocassettes. As material objects, the videocassettes were a means of negotiating the power of the state and the agency of its citizens. By the time the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance lifted the ban in 1994, millions of videocassettes were circulating efficiently and widely throughout the country. The very presence of a video underground signaled the failure of state policy to regulate media. Embedded in the informal infrastructure—even in the videocassettes themselves—was the triumph of everyday people over the state.

Reviewed By

Review Kaveh Askari (April 2022) Review of "Underground: The Secret Life of Videocassettes in Iran". Technology and Culture (pp. 572-573). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Patricia J. Smith
Trainque, Jarrod
Tom Kane
Umut, Hasan
Takehiro Ohya
Faranak Seyedi
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
History and Technology
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Yale University Press
Welcome Books
Presses de l'Université Laval
Oxford University Press
MIT Press
Technology and society
Technology and law
Television; video
Technology and culture
Mass media and culture
Technology and government
Petrovic, George
Eisenhower, Dwight David
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
United States
Twitter (firm)
National Museum of Science and Technology, National Museums of Canada, in cooperation with the Engineering Centennial Board

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