Tag Archives: Nationalism

Emergence of Iranian nationalism

Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza. 2016. The emergence of Iranian nationalism: Race and the politics of dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press.

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:

Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration and Spelling
Introduction
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
8. Triumph
Conclusion: The Failure of Dislocative Nationalism
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi is lecturer (assistant professor) in history at King’s College London.

Religious Appropriation of National Symbols in Iran: Searching for Cyrus the Great

Merhavy, Menahem. 2015. Religious Appropriation of National Symbols in Iran: Searching for Cyrus the GreatIranian Studies. 48(6), 933-948.

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.