Hot Spots lecture examines political unrest in Iran

Kevan Harris, associate professor of sociology at UCLA, discusses the recent political protests in Iran at the Hot Spots lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Harris explained the case of Mahsha Amini, a young woman who died in police custody after protesting the Iranian government’s requirement that all women wear head coverings. / photo by Kaylie Ennis
Kevan Harris, associate professor of sociology at UCLA, discusses the recent political protests in Iran at the Hot Spots lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Harris explained the case of Mahsha Amini, a young woman who died in police custody after protesting the Iranian government’s requirement that all women wear head coverings. / photo by Kaylie Ennis

Samira Felix
News Editor

Kevan Harris, associate professor of sociology at UCLA, presented his Hot Spots Lecture “2022 Iran Uprisings: Antecedents, Impacts, and Aftermath” Wednesday to about 30 University of La Verne community members in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom.

The lecture was hosted by the International Studies Institute. Their main goal is to create personal, scholarly, and professional links between international faculty and students to strengthen the knowledge and understanding of global issues. 

Jason Neidleman, political science professor and interim director of the International Studies Institute, said Harris was invited to present his lecture because it raises awareness about international affairs and the committee thought it was important to address the recent protests in Iran. 

Harris’ lecture focused on his thoughts of what has been happening in Iran in the last 10 years that led to the increase in protests last fall, what it means to see protests in Iran, how the protests are interpreted and how sociologists analyze the protests using various survey methods like surveys by telephone and online. 

“I’m covering lots of different methods of the topic,” Harris said. “Hopefully, you’ll find something that you like even if you disagree with me. We are academics, we love to disagree.” 

Harris began the lecture by talking about how the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and 1990s instituted primary health care, further mass education and subsidization of fuel and foods that were inexpensive to minimize poverty. In the 2010s the government removed the access to affordable fuel and food. They replaced these with cash transfers, but it was not able to keep up with inflation, which caused people to start protesting to get their wages. Protests in Iran regarding economic and social factors have been ongoing for the past few years. 

Harris added that many people do not pay attention to what is happening in Iran unless it is talked about in the news like the 2022 protests that occurred in many different parts of the country.  

“We pay attention only when it erupts like it did a few months ago,” Neidleman said.  “And I think the most useful thing he did was to situate these recent protests in a broader context. Give you a sense that this isn’t just happening right now because CNN happens to be covering it. This has been happening for at least the last decade.”

During the presentation, Harris showed various forms of data that were gathered via surveys about the claims and demands in protests, the number of protests and grievances in protests. 

Harris explained that he has been conducting surveys in Iran since 2016. The surveys he conducted were via phone calls. Questions are tested during these surveys to see what questions receive a response from people. 

“It’s frustrating, but this is how you can generate data that you think is somewhat reliable on asking questions about people’s political participation, their economic activities, what jobs they have, and what they think about something at one particular time on a survey,” Harris said. 

Malissa Hernandez, department manager of history and political science, said she found Harris’ explanation about surveys interesting because she did not have a lot of background in surveys prior to the lecture. 

”I was super curious about the ins and outs and the makings of a good survey,” Hernandez said. “It was really interesting to hear about his participation and his leadership in that area.”

Harris ended the lecture by talking about how protests are not the opinions of the whole population because it is a big country and it is very diverse and he believes that there will be more protests in Iran.

“Protests tend to lead populations into the civil rights movement,” Harris said. “They’re always a minority of the population and most protest movements are not 50% plus one and most people do not take part in protests and revolutions.”

After the lecture ended the audience members were able to ask questions. Kenneth Marcus, professor of history, asked Harris his opinion regarding the increased involvement of women in the recent protests in Iran. 

Harris said that women have always been a part of revolutions; the only difference now is that men have stepped aside, which has allowed women to have a louder voice. 

Ariel Solis, a senior political science major, said she attended the lecture because she is interested in international relations, especially conversations surrounding revolutions or regime changes and she was really interested in Harris’ opinion regarding the involvement of women in protests. 

“Seeing it led by women is new, but seeing women active in politics and active in something that they’re passionate about is not and I really like that (Harris) was really changing the narrative,” Solis said. 

Samira Felix can be reached at samira.felix@laverne.edu

Samira Felix, a junior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is news editor for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer.

Kaylie Ennis is a senior photography major and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. Originally from Washington state, she enjoys cars and nature photography.

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