The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism

Race and the Politics of Dislocation

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi

Columbia University Press

The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism

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Pub Date: October 2018

ISBN: 9780231175777

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $27.00£21.00

Pub Date: March 2016

ISBN: 9780231175760

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: March 2016

ISBN: 9780231541114

312 Pages

Format: E-book

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The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism

Race and the Politics of Dislocation

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi

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 Emergence of Iranian Nationalism breaks new ground in the study of recent Iranian history. It reveals and analyzes the dirty little secret of Iranian nationalism, namely that it contains a racist dimension. It is not only a well-researched and well-written book, it is also a courageous book. Houchang Chehabi, Boston University
The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism is a major contribution to the intellectual history of modern Iran. Reza Zia-Ebrahimi has brought into critical focus some of the most pious and intractable certainties that have long defined the ideology of Iranian nationalism. Both erudite and iconoclastic, this book is sure to stir much contentious debate. Afshin Marashi, author of Nationalizing Iran: Culture, Power, and the State, 1870-1940
Zia-Ebrahimi persuasively argues that the texts of a few writers furnished the basis of a nationalist ideology asserting the Aryan essence of an ancient nation, an ideology taken up by Iran's Pahlavi rulers and still significant. His book is a substantial contribution to modern Iranian history and has relevance beyond the field of Iranian studies. Zia-Ebrahimi's argument is related to key debates in the field of nationalism studies and his methods can be illuminatingly applied to other cases. John Breuilly, London School of Economics
The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism brings to final and definitive fruition a body of critical thinking about the origin and rise of Iranian nationalism deeply rooted in the Eurocentric racism of the nineteenth century. Zia-Ebrahimi lasers in on the crucial instantiations of this powerful ethnocentric construction of the nation, carefully dissecting and critically dismantling them. This is a must read and an exemplary piece of scholarship declaring the rise of a new generation of scholars who are overriding the clichés and hang-ups of their parental generation. Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
An important work and should be read by anyone interested in modern Iranian studies.... Highly recommended. Choice
Zia-Ebrahimi’s study is daring, innovative, and meticulous and is an essential discussion—for both public and academic readers. Rasoul Aliakbari, The Historian
The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism deftly tackles one of the most poisonous and culturally destabilizing features of the modern Iranian cultural zeitgeist . . . This insightful monograph is as groundbreaking as it is incisive and it will surely become one of the standard ‘go-to’ texts on the subject. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Richly evocative and provocative . . . This is an original study that shows the immense complexity of Iranian nationalism. Perspectives on Politics
It is rare that an academic study centrally concerned with a nineteenth-century discourse is so urgently relevant to contemporary intellectual and political debates. Reza Zia Ebrahimi's first monograph is just such a work. International Journal of Middle East Studies
A brave book in that it is the first major attempt to address the unwelcome issue of the racist strand in Iranian culture, its origin and its divisive impact. It is to be highly commended for its innovative identification and definition of dislocative nationalism, and its original, wide-ranging argument. Iranian Studies

About the Author

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