Sacralizing kinship, naturalizing the nation

Blood and food in postrevolutionary Iran

by Rose Wellman

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In Iran, ideas and practices of the family are integral to religious nation-making. State elites and supporters (here members of the Basij, Iran's paramilitary organization) tie the blood of kinship to the blood and sacrifice of Iran-Iraq War martyrs. They harness blood's relational and sacred properties in museum displays and commemorations to delineate and sanctify an Islamic nation composed of pure, kindred citizens. Food has similar efficacy: pious acts of sharing food at home infuse the rituals of state power, creating “what should be”—that is, citizens who embody familial piety, purity, and closeness to God. The Iranian case compels us to consider how a full spectrum of immaterial qualities, substances, and acts of kin making can inform the nation and its politics. [kinship, nation, blood, food, Basij, Islam, Iran]