Scouting in Iran Amid Changing Practices of Masculinity and Childhood

Sivan Balslev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the Boy Scout Movement in Iran, under Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925–1941) and the role it played in the formation of a new elite boyhood. I argue that the movement’s emphasis on self-reliance, masculinity, and loyalty aimed to soothe adult anxieties that stemmed from changing attitudes toward and practices of modern Iranian masculinity and childhood. These adult anxieties also derived from the conflicting hopes and fears inspired by elite adolescence as a modern phenomenon. The gradual transition from child labour, as the expected constitutive experience of adolescence, to schooling as required and ubiquitous caused these mixed public sentiments on boyhood. Alongside the desire to see independent, educated, and self-reliant youth, fears of potential political activism among young Iranians drove the state to support scouting as fostering obedience and loyalty to the Shah. The article will demonstrate how scouting sought to inculcate loyalty and obedience, in order to answer the possible challenge posed by educated, strong, teenagers–namely that of political opposition to the ruler. In this manner, scouting was perceived as an antidote to the maladies of modern masculinity and childhood in Iran and solved the problem of legitimate activities of children in the outdoors.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)326-349
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Childhood history
  • education
  • Iran
  • masculinity
  • Scouting

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