Revolutionary Armies and Mechanisms of Institution-building: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project is a historical ethnography of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) institutionalization process as a revolutionary establishment. When Iran was invaded by Iraqi forces shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the IRGC was a feeble, inexperienced, and ill-equipped militia. Nevertheless, it joined the war effort and, surprisingly, survived and thrived to become the most powerful economic, intelligence, and military institution in the country. This dissertation shows how the Guards borrowed organizational practices used in clerical and other religious communities to preserve the new militia, and mobilized their newly revolutionized Shi’ite cultural background to articulate their characteristic role in the war. By studying the consolidation of this unique religious-military organization that won the political support of the Islamic government, the project contributes to the understanding of unconventional religious militaries as well as bottom-up processes of state-building.