THE IRANIAN: Shirin Ebadi Hopeful but skeptical, Choob Dosar-Gohi

So, Ebadi's correct assessment of the situation is not news to her audience. What needs to be assessed critically, however, is the question of how the trope of democracy links different forms of governmentality, including the state, multinational banks and money lending organizations, UN entities, local and global NGOs, and diasporas. Ebadi's criticism of “war on terrorism” in a think tank that took part in creating the discourse of “war on terrorism” needs to be thought through in this complex nexus of power relations. Otherwise, limiting the analysis to the structural level takes for granted the universalist narratives of democracy and progress, without interrogating their links to much diffused forms of power.

At the end of the question and answer period at Hoover's Memorial Hall, Ebadi responded to a question about her degree of optimism, by saying that “we are all passengers on the same ship and this ship is headed towards a greater civilization. But if any part of the ship is downed it will hurt our progress. But I must be an optimist, because if I am not, I cannot be effective and continue my work.”

While Ebadi's optimism and pragmatism is commendable, the question that remains to be answered is: whose progress and whose ship? After all, the memory of coolie and slave ships in the making of the “New World” is a not very distant memory in narratives of cohabitation of humanity on ships of “progress.” Engines of progress seem to be fueled by the labor of those who barely benefit from the lures of “greater civilizations.” But, like Ebadi, I must be an optimist. My optimism looks forward to the productive nature of power and the unintended effects of conferences such as the one organized by the conservative war think tank, Hoover.

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