Berberian, Houri & Touraj Daryaee (eds.). 2018. Reflections of Armenian identity in history and historiography. Jordan Center for Persian Studies.
This volume is the result of a conference held on the UCI campus in April of 2015. The purpose of this international conference was to explore various aspects of Armenian identity from the remote past to the present. Some of the papers that appear in this collection stay true to their original presentations w hile others have been dramatically altered, even in subject in one case.
Table of Contents:
Gregory E. Areshian: Historical Dynamics of the Endogenous Armenian, i.e. Hayots, Identity: Some General Observations
Reza Zia-Ebrahimi revisits the work of Fath?ali Akhundzadeh and Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani, two Qajar-era intellectuals who founded modern Iranian nationalism. In their efforts to make sense of a difficult historical situation, these thinkers advanced an appealing ideology Zia-Ebrahimi calls “dislocative nationalism,” in which pre-Islamic Iran is cast as a golden age, Islam is reinterpreted as an alien religion, and Arabs become implacable others. Dislodging Iran from its empirical reality and tying it to Europe and the Aryan race, this ideology remains the most politically potent form of identity in Iran.
Akhundzadeh and Kermani’s nationalist reading of Iranian history has been drilled into the minds of Iranians since its adoption by the Pahlavi state in the early twentieth century. Spread through mass schooling, historical narratives, and official statements of support, their ideological perspective has come to define Iranian culture and domestic and foreign policy. Zia-Ebrahimi follows the development of dislocative nationalism through a range of cultural and historical materials, and he captures its incorporation of European ideas about Iranian history, the Aryan race, and a primordial nation. His work emphasizes the agency of Iranian intellectuals in translating European ideas for Iranian audiences, impressing Western conceptions of race onto Iranian identity.
The table of contents:
Note on Transliteration and Spelling
1. The Paleontology of Iranian Nationalism
2. Akhundzadeh and Kermani: The Emergence of Dislocative Nationalism
3. Pre-Islamic Iran and Archaistic Frenzy
4. Of Lizard Eaters and Invasions: The Import of European Racial Thought
5. Europe, That Feared Yet Admired Idol
6. Aryanism and Dislocation
7. The Road to Officialdom
Conclusion: The Failure of Dislocative Nationalism
Reza Zia-Ebrahimi is lecturer (assistant professor) in history at King’s College London.
A while ago we posted a link about the exhibition The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past. We now draw attention to the catalogue of the exhibition, which presents nearly 200 photographs and contributions by Carmen Perez Gonzalez, Bergische Universität Wuppertal; Reza Sheikh, Independent Scholar; and Judith A. Lerner, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.
The catalogue’s essays discuss such topics as the achievements of court photographers in the service of Naser al-Din Shah, including Reza ‘Akkasbashi, ‘Abdollah Mirza Qajar, and Dust Mohammad Khan Mo’ayyer al-Mamalek, and the volume also examines the role of photography in helping Iranians document Iran’s pre-Islamic monuments during the second half of the nineteenth century.
In this article I examine the debate over the character of Cyrus the Great in Iran during the last four decades, using it as a prism to view the struggle over the desired balance between religious and ethnic components of Iranian identity. Heated polemics over the historical figure of Cyrus and his legacy reveal undercurrents of Iranian identity dilemmas as well as different and conflicting views of Iranian identity. Beyond a mere historical or religious controversy, the debate over the “right” memory of Cyrus presents an interesting case of shifting emphasis on identity and sources of political inspiration in Iranian society from the late 1960s to the present. Moreover, putting the debate over the ancient king in perspective, there emerges a wider picture of religious adaptation and embrace of what once seemed pagan or secular.
October 22, 2015- January 17, 2016 Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11am-6pm, Friday 11am-8pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday
The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past explores a pivotal time in Iran, when the country was opening itself to the Western world. With over 150 photographic prints, a number of vintage photographic albums, and memorabilia that utilized formal portraiture of the shah, the exhibition shows how photographers—many of them engaged by Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848-1896), the longest reigning Shah of the Qajar Dynasty (1785-1925)—sought to create a portrait of the country for both foreigners and Iranians themselves. Most of the photographs in the exhibition have never been publicly displayed.
The Eye of the Shah includes unprecedentedphotographs of life in the royal court in Tehran, such as images of the last shahs of the Qajar Dynasty, their wives and children, and court entertainers. These are complemented by photographs of iconic ancient monuments and sites, such as Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam, capturing Iran’s expansive and rich historical past, which further promoted Iran and Iranian culture to the West. The photographers depicted the Iran of their day through images of modernization initiatives, such as the military, the railway, and the postal system, while the daily lives of Iranian people was revealed through photographs showing shopkeepers, street vendors, and field workers. Additionally, Eye of the Shah features pieces by two modern-day Iranian photographers, Bahman Jalali (1944-2010) and Shadi Ghadirian (b. 1974), who evoke and sometimes incorporate images of photography from the Qajar Dynasty, illustrating the continuing and powerful influence that Iranian photography of 19th and early 20th century photography has in the country’s contemporary art world.
Modern Iran is a country with two significant but competing discourses of national identity, one stemming from ancient pre-Islamic customs and mythology, the other from Islamic Shi’i practices and beliefs. At one time co-existing and often mutually reinforcing, in more modern times they have been appropriated by intellectuals and the state who have drawn upon their narratives and traditions to support and authenticate their ideologies. The result has been an often-confused notion of identity in Iran. In this essential work, Ali Mozaffari explores the complex processes involved in the formation of Iranian national identity. He lays particular stress upon the importance of place, for it is through the concept of place that collective national identity and ideas of homeland are expressed and disseminated. The author reveals the ways in which homeland is conceived both through designated permanent sites and ritual performance, illustrating his arguments through an analysis of the ancient Achaemenid capital of Persepolis and the Shi’i rituals of Moharram.
Pasargadae is the location of the tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Through the ages it was Islamised and the tomb was ascribed to the Mother of Solomon. It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that archaeological evidence demonstrated the relationship between the site and Cyrus and it was appropriated into conflicting political discourses on nationalism and Islamism while concurrently acknowledged as a national and then a World Heritages site. However, Pasargadae is neither an isolated World Heritage site, nor purely a symbol of abstract state politics. Pasargadae and its immediate vicinity constitute a living landscape occupied by villagers, nomads and tourists.This edited volume presents for the first time a broad, multi-disciplinary examination of Pasargadae by experts from both outside and within Iran. It specifically focuses on those disciplines that are absent from existing studies, such as ethnography, tourism and museum studies providing valuable insights into this fascinating place. In its totality, the book argues that to understand World Heritage sites and their problems fully, a holistic approach should be adopted, which considers the manifold of perspectives and issues. It also puts forward a novel approach to the question of heritage, representation and construction of collective identity from the framework of place.