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Contact the UCL Mellon Programme
Andrew W Mellon Foundation
UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2009-2010'
Intergeneric' translation Iranian Modernity and the West
Seminar: 14 May 2010 (Chair: Dr Saaed Talajooy, more ... )
Nationalism, History and Modernity
Professor Ali Ansari,
Director of Iranian Studies, University of St Andrews), more ...
in Modern Iran
Chadwick Lecture Theatre, Chadwick Building, UCL main campus, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, more ...
Nationalism, History and Modernity in modern Iran
Nationalism is the determining ideology of modern Iran. Yet despite, or perhaps because of its pervasiveness in popular and political culture, and the ease with which it is evoked and resorted to by successive governments in order to secure political support and cement legitimacy, it remains ill-defined and vigorously contested. The emotional depth professed by its staunchest adherents, betrays an analytical immaturity which some observers consider disingenuous. Yet whether the product of cynical manipulation, or a consequence of sincere adherence, there can be little doubt, that ‘nationalism’ in all its manifestations has been the ideological reference point to which all competing ideologies have ultimately had to adhere, and within which most have been subsumed.
Nationalism as understood in Iran has largely been driven by and defined against a normative frame of reference established by European intellectual and political culture. That is, that the grand narrative of progress, and the role of the ‘nation’ in articulating that progress, has been defined by Europe. Many of the myths which have permeated nationalist ideologies - decadence, decline, progress, feudalism, despotism, race and the role of religion - have been appropriated from a European model of development. Moreover, in the Iranian case, not only aspects of the meta-narrative, but the grand narrative, have been appropriated from Europe. This logic of the West has been pervasive not only in the way in which states have reacted to the challenges posed by European powers, but more crucially in the way that intellectuals, of whatever political hue have been vehicles of ideological dissemination. This is not to articulate an ‘orientalist’ argument about the intellectual colonisation of native elites, but to state the reality that whether integrated or opposed most intellectuals related in some manner or form to the ideas which emanated from Europe. Nothing exemplifies this better than the influence of Marxist thought in Iran, or indeed the reaction of religious intellectuals to the challenges posed by the West. As a succession of Iranian intellectuals have argued, to greater or less effect, it is only by engaging with these ideas and building an indigenous knowledge base, that the terms of reference can be gradually changed. It is this process which has gathered momentum in recent years and which is beginning to change our understanding of Iranian nationalism and the narratives it has engendered.
Ali M Ansari BA (Lon) PhD (Lon) is a Professor of Iranian History & Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St Andrews; Associate Fellow of the Middle East Programme, Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).
His most recent books include Iran Under Ahmadinejad, Adelphi Paper, IISS, January 2008; Confronting Iran: the Failure of US Policy and the Roots of Mistrust Hurst, London, 2006; Modern Iran since 1921: the Pahlavis and after, 2 nd Edition, Longman, London, 2007; Iran, Islam & Democracy - The Politics of Managing Change, 2 nd Edition, RIIA, London, 2006.
He is currently working on a book for Cambridge University Press entitled, The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran, and has recently been appointed Editor of the Cambridge History of Iran Vol 8 (The Islamic Republic).
Ansari, Ali, Iran, Islam and Democracy: the Politics of Managing Change, 2 nd Edition ( London: RIIA, 2006) (First Edition, 2000)
-------------, Modern Iran Since 1921: the Pahlavis and After, 2 nd Edition ( London: Longman, 2007 (First Edition, 2003)
Jahanbegloo, Ramin, (ed.) Iran between Tradition and Modernity, ( Washington: Lexington, 2004).
Katouzain, Homa, The Persians, Ancient, Medieval and Modern Iran, (London and New York: Yale University Press, 2009).
---------------------, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Rise of the Pahlavis, ( London and New York: I. B. Tauris, paperback edition, 2006) (original edition, 2000).
Milani, Abbas, Lost Wisdom: Rethinking Persian Modernity in Iran, (Washington DC: Mage Publishers, 2004)
Tavakoli-Targhi, Mohammad, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).
Books in Persian
Adamiyat, Fereydoun, Fekr-e Azadi va Moqaddamat-e Nehzat-e Mashruteh (The Idea of Liberty and the Beginning of the Iranian Constitutional Movement), ( Tehran, 1961).
--------------------------, Andishe-ye Taraqqi va Hokumat-e Qanun (The Idea of Modernity and The Rule of Law), (Tehran: Kharazmi, 1972).
---------------------------, Ideolojhi-ye Nehzat-e Mashrutiyat-e Iran, (The Ideology of the Iranian Constitutional Movement), (Tehran: Peyam, 1976).
Kermani, Nazemal-Islam, Tarikh-e Bidari-ye Iraniyan, (The History of the Awakening of Iranians) ed., Ali Akbar Sa'idi Sirjani, ( Tehran, 1970).
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