Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rural desperation

It's a profile of one village in rural Iran. Maybe it's the only one The Economist reporter reached. Some context would be helpful. Is it typical? an outlier? persecuted?

That's one of the differences between journalism and academics. A singular dramatic story can make a headline and a story — in print, on television, or on a blog. But in academic consideration, there has to be more context and generalization. What evidence does the reporter offer to substantiate the claims made in the article? What other information would you like to have in order to evaluate the importance of this example?

Rural decline in Iran: Nothing idyllic
In a village orchard on the fringe of the Lut desert in south-eastern Iran, Shah Banu Esma Ilani… plucks pistachios from a huge tree and puts them in a pouch in her tunic. A qanat, a trench that occasionally brings water from aquifers beneath mountains hundreds of miles away, cuts across her land but is bone-dry. Her little village is nearly empty of people. In the past two decades, three-quarters of them have left for work hundreds of kilometres away in Tehran… or Isfahan…

It is a tale that can be told in many villages in Iran’s vast semi-arid swathes. Poor administration and global warming have imperilled many of them. The qanat network, created three millennia ago to irrigate ancient Persia, has long been neglected. Ground and river water is often diverted to industrial farms…

Most ordinary Iranians, in big cities and remote villages alike, look to Mr Rohani’s government to clinch a deal with the West over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme which has led to the economic sanctions now biting so hard, especially against the poor. “We should have nuclear power,” says Shah Banu. “But we also want to live as we did before.”

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