Iran Today Lecture Series – Abbas Amanat
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Iran Today Lecture Series – Abbas Amanat

October 8, 2019


Just as a reminder,
so the talk today is part of a yearlong
series that we are doing concentrating on Iran. It’s called Iran Today. And this is the first event of
this type for this semester. And later in April, we will
also have professor [? Nila ?] [INAUDIBLE] from Johns
Hopkins University also coming to give a talk. So it is my great pleasure to
introduce our speaker today, professor Abbas Amanat, who
is the William Graham Sumner professor of history. He is a historian of
the modern Middle East, an early modern and
modern Iran and Shi’ism in the Persian world in general. I think we can say that his work
since the late 1980’s has been actually a defining feature
of the history of Iran, of the consideration of the
modern history and of Iran in many different ways. He is the author of
three major books, as well as numerous edited
volumes and special issues of journals, as well as
countless other works, long and short combined. I thought what I would
do is to give you a sense of the breadth
of this, in terms of his the trajectory of his
work by just talking about two of his books. So the first one is this
one, called Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of
the Babi Movement in Iran in 1844 to 1850, a detailed
history of the Babi movement, the precursor to
the Baha’i religion. And this book, when
it came out, truly transformed how we thought
actually about 19th century Iran, both in terms of the
internal complexities of Iran as a society, but also in
comparison with the longer history of Iran and
the surrounding areas. You can sort of see my own
indebtedness to this book by the number of
posters that are here. And these have been here since I
was a graduate student at Yale. I remember very fondly being
in professor Amanat’s seminar– it was a graduate seminar– arriving there in 1991,
completely confused about what life was going to be about. And he set me right. And so I am truly
greatly indebted to him since that time, now almost
coming to three decades. And actually, in the
introduction to this book, there is a statement where
Professor Amanat says that what he wants
to do in this book is to ask a very deceivingly
simple questions, do religious movements matter? And that leads to this
wonderful narrative that we have in this book. That has been kind of the
guiding question for me for now decades of work. And it is a deceiving simple
question that’s actually a very complex question. And the more complex
[? an ?] answer one can give to this
is the mark of I think, what a good history
of religion looks like, which is defined in many ways
by Professor Amanat’s work. Today, we are here to
celebrate in talking about a very short book,
nearly 1,000 pages, which is his most recent work,
Iran: A Modern History. Which is really truly,
a definitive statement about a narrative
history of Iran for the past half a millennium. And done not simply as a kind
of cumulative effort about the work of others, et
cetera, , but really, a kind of rethinking of
the [? long ?] [INAUDIBLE] of Iranian history and all
the associated areas that go together with it. So it is my great,
great pleasure to welcome Professor Amanat,
and we look forward to his talk. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Well, thank you very much for
this wonderful introduction. And hearing it from Professor
[? Bashir ?] is particularly gratifying, since our friendship
goes back, as he pointed out , for several decades. And the honor of having
him in my classes and really benefiting
from his work and his research
and his thoughts. And I’m delighted to
see that he is now one of the stars in the field. And all that paid
off very well, right? Now, thank you very much
for inviting me here. Thank you very much for
coming to this talk. I think Professor
[? Bashir ?] [INAUDIBLE] was also someone that I’ve
known from before is on leave. But he actually–
first two years ago, when my book was not still out,
he and I had an [? occasion, ?] he was presenting his new book– beautiful book, by the way– at Yale. And we went to dinner
together and he asked me, what are you doing these days? And I said, well, this
is the book that I have been working on for some years. And he say, OK, very nice. How many pages? And I said, well, I’m
not sure, probably gets closer to 1,000 pages. He said, wow, 1,000 page. Are you sure that
this is going to be published by your publisher? I said, well, they are
committed, I am committed. It’s reached the stage that
you cannot divorce, really. He said that to
his knowledge, this is the longest book that was
produced on any subject related to the Middle East. And that terrified me,
because I thought to myself, what have I done? And besides, it turned
out that this is really unconventional survey. And my editor put that
at the back of the book, that this is not a
conventional survey of the history of modern Iraq. And then I thought
to myself, somebody would read this and
say this guy’s crazy. I mean, what is
unconventional these days? Could be anything. But it indeed is, given the fact
that it consists of four parts, covers 500 years, 17 chapters– 17 long chapters– and
it’s about 1,000 pages, and covers two very eventful
periods in the history of Iran, that is early modern and modern. Most scholars that’s
even wrote surveys of national history of
one or the other country, or one or the other empire,
usually focus on one part. And that’s by itself
is fairly formidable, compared to the kind
of monographs that you are very familiar with. It’s a specific topic,
specific argument, specific set of sources. And the pathway is fairly
clear, more or less, when you are
writing a monograph. Whereas if you’re
writing a survey, you’re dealing with a
whole range of issues, with a whole range of arguments
that you wish to make. And then you have
other limitations. If you cast your net
too wide, then you have to cover lots of
topics and a lot of issues. And that’s actually part of the
unconventiality of this book. And it’s [? resonant ?] why
I’ve actually attempted to write this long [? dura ?] history
of Iran over the 500 years. And that’s my, actually, attempt
today to try to defend myself, why I have the answer. And those of you who are
going to be or have already been exposed to it, or in
future, decide to read it, as this would have
my side of the story as well before you [? curse ?]
me for this heavy book that we’re going to hold on to. Incidentally, it’s available on
the electronic version, which is [? great. ?] Online,
you can buy the– or you can look at the
electronic version. And most recently, there
is a audio version of it, which I think is
very nicely done by a professional narrator. If you have
sleeplessness, it may help or it may not help, actually. But you may try. All right, above this,
beyond the fact that this is a formidable task to try to
write a narrative such as this, it turned out since
it was published, it’s kind of become a full time,
perhaps a lifetime engagement. Because you give a
lot of talks about it. And in the process of
giving these talks, it’s one way, very gratifying,
because people come and listen to you. And that’s very good. On the other hand,
it helps perhaps, to articulate what I would
call an afterthought. You know, once you’ve
written this book, once you’ve talked about
it over a period of time, some things becomes even
more clear to the author. And in that respect, a
look on, for instance, [? Bridel, ?] who is famous book
on the Spain during the reign of Philip II [? Mediterranean ?]
during the reign of Philip II, which is a classic [INAUDIBLE]
school– very famous, perhaps the greatest books
that was written in the period of the 1950’s and 60’s. He, after producing this
very thick, two volume book, he wrote an afterthought
some years later. Which actually greatly
helps as a kind of a key to understand the book by
reading what he had written about it some years later. I’m not comparing
myself to [? Bridel, ?] but I’m taking that
as kind of a model, that historians may think
there is an afterlife. You can continue
thinking about it. Another– and related,
actually, to this– is the question of
the [? readership. ?] I mean, throughout
writing this book, I basically struggle to
define to whom or for whom I am writing this book. At times, because I taught
a course on modern Iran for many years at Yale,
I thought to myself, OK, perhaps this is for
the college students. Then I had to decide
whether for graduates or for undergraduates,
because they’re two different audiences. If you write for
graduate students, graduate students
are very ke– are there some graduate
students in history here? There are some. They are very keen
to really come to the cutting edge of new
theory, new historiography. And always, sometimes I find
myself in their presence rather– how should I put it– a difficult time. Because you have to constantly
talk to the latest article that has come out on some
aspects of historiography, but which you are very ignorant. So writing this book
for graduate students was a tricky thing. But I sometimes
when I was writing, I was thinking about
graduate seminars and what the students
are going to talk about, and what would be
of interest to them. Yet, at the same time,
there were other audiences in my mind. I was thinking about some of
my own colleagues in the field. Some of the people in the
field who are not in my– some of the historians
were not in my field, some of my colleagues in
the history department, or in other history departments,
whose knowledge about Iran is limited. However, they are
professional historians. And they have other
skills and other tools of dealing with the historical
narrative, such as this one– kind of a long survey. I also sometimes had in
mind kind of a general– as it’s often been said– educated readers
interested in books. At one time, another editor– not for this book,
for something else– told me, you know,
you write for people who listen to NPR, read New
York Times, go to museums, and go to– what
was the fourth one? Oh, they see arts movies. So that’s the kind
of an audience that perhaps, sometimes I had in mind
when I was writing this book, that it’s not only
for the academics or for people in the
university environments. And then of course
in the process, I realized, particularly after
the publications of this book, that there is a much larger
audience that I had ignored, and that is the Iranian American
population in the United States or North America or Europe. There is, as some
of you might know, the are three million
Iranian-Americans, or Iranian-Canadians
in North America. And many of them are
either themselves or the second generation
or the first generation, depends how you
would define them– hyphenated people that
is Iranian-American or Iranian-Canadian. Or [? Iranian–UK, ?] the stand
up comedian would call them Ukrainians. But these people
have big questions in their minds about
Iran, particularly those who came out of the
country and came with this great
puzzle in their minds, why there was a
revolution, or have very strange ideas about
how the revolution happened in our conspiracy
theories and so forth. So reading a book like
this, it turned out attracted another audience
that I didn’t expect. So even up to now, I
would say, probably I haven’t resolved the issue of
for whom I’d written this book. But that’s what it is,
you have in front of you– and sometimes I think
[? some ?] English proverb say talking to your hearts,
basically writing for yourself, and don’t worrying so much
about for whom you’re writing. That’s actually very
relaxing and liberating. Because once you
realize that you just write what you like to write– what else? Yes, along the same
lines, how should you go about writing a
book of this nature– that is methodologically,
or your approach, how you’re going
to structure it. What is in and what is out? And that was a huge and
ongoing inner struggle, to try to maintain a certain
balance and an economy in dealing with the
topic such as this. There’s a [? Rumi’s ?] verse
from the opening of the first [? after ?] of [INAUDIBLE] the
first book of [INAUDIBLE] that says in Persian first,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. It says, if you pour the sea
into a jug, how much does it takes but a daily ration? So thinking about
writing a history, you have to think
about the daily ration. The jug, to me– if you interpret
this verse by Rumi– is a metaphor, perhaps for
the shape and the structure of what you’re writing. The daily part of
it is perhaps can be interpreted as the updated
and the timely approach, both in terms of your
arguments, in terms of the material you’re
bringing to the attention of your reader. And the ration,
perhaps, is this sense of discretion, a sense
of proportionate approach to the facts that you
have in front of you. And then, of course, another
verse of Rumi as a result, became ringing in my mind. Because eventually,
as I said, if you are talking to your [? heart, ?]
basically writing for yourself, then your take or your approach
becomes part of the narrative. And I think the
historians this day and age recognize the
fact that you no longer– and the image of the 1950’s
and 60’s historiography– cannot write a purely
objective history. So there is something of you
always in what you are writing. It’s a controlled self,
but there is a self that you have to acknowledge. And you locate
yourself, basically, at post-modernists
would like to tell you. In regard, somewhere
in the introduction, I called it I write
history with attitude. And it was taken on that
point [? it’s ?] history with attitude, what
you are talking about, is this some kind of
impolite approach to history. I said, no, no, no. This is another verse
by Rumi that says– this is in the story of
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. I don’t know how many of you
are familiar with the story of Moses and the shepherds
in volume 1 of [INAUDIBLE].. And god says to the
shepherd, again, in Persian, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Which, probably in my
rather poor translation, says seek not any
method or order, say what your complaining
heart desires. So [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
that’s complaining hearts, is part of this narrative, that
I translated into history with attitude. Now, beyond these
introductory remarks, I have tried also to trace
back what were basically, the kinds of influences
and the trends that helped me
write this account consciously or unconsciously,
mostly unconsciously. First of all, I”m coming from
a culture that ever since the 10th century or thereabouts,
has produced universal histories. So this [? long dura ?] idea
that the French [? annals ?] discovered in the middle of the
20th century as it is very well known for many of
these historians, starting with [? Tal Amri ?]
and [? Bal Amri. ?] And there is a whole line of
historians, of course, I would consider [INAUDIBLE]
as an Iranian historian too. And what they would
produce is this history of the prophets and the Kings. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. So this is not purely
a political history, it’s a political, religious
history that was this kind of [? genre ?] that dominated
the [? histriography ?] of the Middle Ages
throughout the Islamic world, and had its origins back
into earlier times, perhaps, perhaps for the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, or the book of kings that were
produced in [INAUDIBLE] era. Whatever it is, there are
two aspects into them. One is the
legitimization of power, or interpretation
of power, if you want to be rather
kind to the authors. And the other one is that
kind of connecting your time into earlier times, a sense
of a continuity in the memory of the past that comes through
this universal histories from the Middle Ages. And actually, the
Iranian tradition continued right up
to the 19th century. The latest I can think
of is [INAUDIBLE] is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
it is a court chronicle of the [? Voyager ?] period to
produce [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] as a kind of a completion of the
earlier account of [INAUDIBLE],, in which he actually does
cover the same time period the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] and
the [? Voyagers ?] up to his own time, 1850’s and so. So in a sense, there are
some indigenous examples of this traditional universal
histories that one can– or at least, they
were in my mind. Also, I think I would
not deny the fact that the imperial
narratives that were produced in
the 19th century largely by these colonial
officers coming from India to Iran and produced a number
of important histories, and tried to make sense
of Iranian history in a sense of continuity
from pre-Islamic to Islamic to modern. The most famous one
produced 1813 or thereabouts by Sir John Malcolm,
it’s a two volume history of a history of Persia. And then that’s kind of an
imperial English tradition, continued in the
middle of the century with [INAUDIBLE] the
end of the century by Sykes, another two
volume history of Persia. Which again, tends
to put together a long duration history of
the country and try to– not so much interpretive
history or analytical history, but it just gives us a kind
of a continuity narrative. And being a historian partly
trained in the United Kingdom, it’s inevitable
that you get exposed to that kind of
historigraphy as well. And then, of course,
in more recent times, this empiricist
Anglo-America tradition of historiography in
the 1960’s and 70’s were kind of bread and
butter of anybody who works on subjects such as
countries of the region, that is in Middle East. There is a famous seven volume
Cambridge history of Iran that was produced in the
1960’s and 70’s. Volume 6 and 7 are
basically covers the period from the
1500’s to the present. And again, is an attempt
to try to present you this long period of history
of Iran from the ancient times, from prehistory to the present. And then, of course, there
are modern narratives, narratives that were produced
by historians that we consider in our day and age
as modern historians, historians with the new tools
of how to write history. Famous one produced
in this early 80’s is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Iran
Between Two Revolutions, [INAUDIBLE] kind of predecessor
to my book published by Yale University. What’s the title? It escapes me right now– [INAUDIBLE] Roots [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you so much. I’ve taught it for many
years, but still I sometimes– [INAUDIBLE] also account
of the 20th century Iran. And more recently,
[INAUDIBLE] book that also covers modern Europe. What they usually
have in common is the use of the term
modern in purely reference to the 20th century,
or perhaps the late 19th– all the way from the background
to the [? constitution ?] the revolution, all the way
through the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and beyond. Their sense of
modern is probably a little bit
different from mine, as I’m going to
explain in a moment. Of course, I had in front of me
and taught for many years, also survey books that were
produced in the Middle East. And I’m sure many
of you are familiar with, those who have taken
courses on the modern Middle East, inevitably probably had
to use one of these books. And they’re actually
quite remarkable. Because you can
see history of Iran within the broader
context of the history of the region, the Middle East. Or perhaps nowadays, as
some of you are familiar, and it’s kind of sense of global
history or connected histories. Now that you cannot look at
Iran or any other country purely in the context of the country
itself and the boundaries that it has today, but you should
look at it in the context of interaction with other
neighboring countries in the region,
beyond the region. And look at the currents
that are common throughout. This is what makes global
history, this is very popular. I’m not going to talk about
the pros and cons of writing global history. I am somewhat on the
border as to the advantages and disadvantages
of writing there. But writing this book, it
was inevitably in my mind, as you would see
in every chapter– time and again, there are
[? comparisons ?] mostly– I found very constructive– comparisons with the
Ottoman Empire as a whole, with Egypt in particular. I have numerous parallels
that I have drawn and comparisons between
Iran and Egypt, for reasons that we need not to go into,
but historical experiences are the same. Or exposure to the forces
of colonial [? law, ?] one might say, Western advances
and hegemony in the region– is common trends. And ideas of reform you
can see common trends between the countries
of the region. Or for that matter,
even with South Asia during the colonial
period or prior to the mobile era and
the post mobile era, there are again, really
remarkable continuity. So that was also
very much in my mind. Although, the
construct that today, we refer to it as Middle
East, for me, is problematic. And more and more
over the years, I’m thinking about whether
we can think of a historical discipline– if not other
fields, at least in history– we can think of
Middle East in terms of its historical experience. Or whether this is a
superimposed notion that emerged in the 20th century,
or late 19th century, early 20th century out of
kind of a default notion that came about. And this has it– I’m not going to get into
this too much, but also point out that in a sense, if we
would like to think about what critics of Orientalism are
telling us, like Edward Said, one should also think
a little bit more constructively in terms–
or rather constructive perhaps is not the right there–
could think more critically about this concept,
such as the Middle East. Does it actually
exist, as such a thing? Whether the experience of Egypt,
Syria, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon are the same? Whether we can think in terms
of notions such as this one. Once [INAUDIBLE] becoming a
Middle East– and actually, with a colleague in the history
department who also taught a course about becoming Europe,
about this notion that how Europe comes about as an idea. And actually, there are
parallels, very remarkable parallels, that you see how
this constructs develops in the case of the Middle
East in the 20th century. But it can be deconstructed. Nowadays, [? I’m ?] more
preoccupied with the notion of the Persian [? eight– ?] it
is kind of an unfortunate name for it, but it’s becoming
common as an alternative zone of inquiry that may actually– puts us in a different world. Iran may have much
more in common, in terms at least in cultural
terms, with South Asia, with Central Asia,
with the Caucasus, and with Anatolia, perhaps,
or the eastern provinces of the old Ottoman Empire
than it does with Egypt, or does with the rest
of the Arab world. So that is, of course,
an important debate, which I think deserves
our greater attention. And that was somewhat in my mind
when I was writing this book. Where I was drawing
comparisons with the countries of the Middle East, but at the
same time, trying to see what differentiates Iran in terms
of its cultural experience, in terms of its political
history, even in modern times. And some of you
might know, Iran is among the very few
countries, perhaps about six or seven of them,
in the non-Western world that were not colonized. That is that they
maintain a sense of sovereignty and more or less
their territorial integrity. And that raises a question at
as how the history of countries that preserve this kind
of precarious sense of their own identity and their
own sovereignty is different from countries who
in one way or another were under the colonial rule. This is by no way is a
question of exceptionalism. I’m not saying that it’s
anything better or worse than the experience
of colonialism. What I am saying
is that this may add another layer of
how history should be approached and written. Beyond that, what was really,
for me, something of– as I pointed out– an interesting approach is that
of the [? Analdist ?] school, the historians. The French historians
who tend to rebel against the political history,
writing of political history, mostly French. But of course,
their influence is very profound in this
country, in the UK, all over. You can see their influence
is that basically, they want to leave aside the history
of events, as they call it, and then go deeper and look
at the structures of history, mostly paying attention
to material culture to try to look at aspects
that fundamentally transforms societies, transform economies,
particularly, since much of it is economic history. Perhaps to some extent,
even environmental aspects of history comes into
this interpretation that was very common in the 1970’s,
80’s, during the time period that I was a graduate student. And naturally, that’s had
an impact on my thinking about history. I wasn’t success– I didn’t attempt
in my book to try to try to get rid of
political history. Political history is everywhere. And I still believe
states are important. And states are
profoundly changing the destiny of societies
that they rule over. And as such, they
cannot be left aside. They have to be
approached and dealt with. But at the same
time, I think I have tried to look a
little bit deeper at this kind of common trends,
or I call it some binaries that you would find in
the history of Iran, or for that matter, in
the history of the region. I will come to them in a moment. Also of influence in the
somewhat later period is the question of history and
memory, or collective memories, and how much that plays a
part in the shaping of the– particularly the
culture, but also to some extent, the
political history of a country or a society. That’s, of course, an offshoot
of the analysis called the history of mentality
that eventually became what it is today. Most people refer to it as the– this sense of a collective
memory that societies have about their own past. And at the top of
that one, of course, is the ideas of the
postmodernist school of historiography. Even if you cannot
call it even a school, because it’s so
wide and so diverse. But paying more attention
to the invisible, to the underprivileged, to
the people who are basically left out of the– edited out
of the official histories. History of women’s history,
that I actually did mention in my book–
that that’s probably one of the most significant
shortcomings of my book. That it does not
have enough about– although, I did my best. But it’s not very easy, as
I pointed out in the book, to write a history that goes
against the very profound, patriarchal narrative
that has been produced for a very long period of time. You have to go against
the grain to be able to read the history below
or under these patriarchal narratives. Well, saying all of this,
another aspect of it that preoccupied me in writing
this book is that why– where is the point of departure? Why the rise of the
[? Saphobit ?] empire in 1501 should be the
beginning of this long, long [? duray. ?] Why
do you need to write– go back so far? Given the fact that
as I mentioned, many of the histories
that were produced in the late 20th century,
and often present, really a– realistically look only at
the perhaps late 19th century up to the present, mostly
from the [? constitutional ?] revolution in the Iranian
case up to the present. As the title of Evrand
Abrahamian’s book, Iran Between Two Revolutions
makes it very clear. Well, is it because 1501
is it very convenient date? It’s the beginning
of the 16th century– maybe. Lots of things happening at the
beginning of the 16th century worldwide. And I think Iran
is no exception. It’s part of that
trend of change that comes about the emergence
of the early modern empires, more or less from the middle of
the 15th century to the middle of the 16th century BC. The Islamic empires,
the Ottomans, the Safavids and the
Mughal Empire of India, all emerging during
this time period. Europe experiences,
more or less, the same phenomenon
or transforms in a ways that at least
in certain respects, are comparative. One is the emergence of this
kind of an idea of sacred [? kingship, ?] that gives us
legitimacy for why you would start with this Safavid period. This sense of sovereignty
based on the idea of a sacred authority, that
is with the messianic movement that brought the
Safavids to power, and the way that the early
Safavids perceived themselves, as being the kind
of profit kings. This is kind of a
messianic notion of the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
is transformed into a kind of political realm. And for me, this is an
important development. And then, of course, the
idea of imperial memory, that with the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] earlier on in the course of the
14th and 15th centuries. But more so with the Safavids
you see that this memory of the Persian kingship of
the ancient times as it comes through a legendary narrative,
such as [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. It becomes much
more conscious, much more central in the
way that Safavids perceive their own authority. But more importantly
perhaps, it’s the beginning of a more
structured, more prevalent notion of Shi’ism
that was adopted not only by the
Safavids themselves, but actually forced through
conversion through the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. Iran became a Shiite
world, a Shiite community, Shiite society. And with very, very important
long term implications, in terms of what I would call
it social homogeneity, that Iran became much more of a– not simply a dynastic empire
of the Safavid period, but an empire that
shares a sense of– by force or by choice– a sense of an identity that
its memories of the Shiite past is very much present in it. And that contributed to the
[? effusion ?] that emerged out of this Safovid world. That I think is an important
moment of departure. Whether it’s modern,
whether we can call it a modern phenomenon,
which is largely debated. And in my reading
of that past, I would say, yes, it’s a moment
of departure for what eventually becomes modern. If you take into account
that past difference between the Safavids and
the dynasties prior to them, is that this sense
of communal identity becomes much more present,
much more powerful in the course of the Safavid
period of the Safavid experience and the other. One should only look
at the fact that– if you’d like to call it– the stress tests, the stress
test of the validity of this fusion, of this emergence of a
period where Shi’ism and this kind of a sacred authority with
the memories of the past comes together– create some kind
of a magical ingredient for the creation of a new
world is the fact that– As I’ve explained
in the book, twice– at least twice– Shi’ism was very seriously
challenged as being the dominant creed, or the
religion of the country once during the time of
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] after the death of
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. That is towards the end
of the 16th century. And once more significantly
and much more seriously during the time of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
in the middle of the 18th century. In both instances,
Shi’ism was deliberately considered to be a force that
divides the Muslim world. And they should be
left aside or should be modified in order to
become [? part ?] and parcel of the Islamic world. The concept that
for the first time, used by [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
to my knowledge, is the kinds of
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Islam. As the first time that
comes in the agenda of another [? Shah ?]
for his own reasons. But nevertheless,
is a concept that tries to basically
[? ameliorate ?] or weaken the idea of the Shi’a identity
versus the Sunni identity that was the source of
so much of religious wars or the conflict between the
Ottoman Empire and Iran, or between the Uzbeks and Iran. And both times, both attempts
failed, very clearly. And by the beginning
of the 19th century, this full conversion of the
Iranian society into Shi’ism is very well evident throughout. What was the nature of
Shi’ism is different. It was not a one
dimensional Shi’ism. It was something very diverse. It has aspects of
popular Shi’ism– very profound. Much more actually, stronger
than the legal Shi’ism that was represented
by the [? jurist, ?] by the Shiite jurist. Or the Cult of [? Ali, ?]
which is also very significant. That’s another
aspect of Shi’ism. All these three, or more
even, this messianic Shi’ism, the cult of [INAUDIBLE] all
very powerful, very present. And [? coexist ?]
with each other or in conflict with each other. So when we talk
about Shi’ism, we are not talking about one
phenomenon or one ideology that was enforced by the state. But it’s a variety
of forms of Shi’ism that tends to grow
during this period. Well, I hear try– then perhaps,
that’s the last point I would like to raise– I came across– or at
least thinking more about what I had written,
or during the time when I was producing this book,
two sets of binaries emerged. One, in my opinion,
are very much political, the other
one is sociocultural. I’m just going to
go through the list, but I’m not going to
discuss all of them. But I think it’s
worthwhile to try to have a certain idea
of what are these themes? What are these binaries
that we’re talking about? In political sense, perhaps one
of the most significant during the time between at least
the 16th century and the 19th centur– end of the 19th
century, beginning of– well, even middle
of the 20th century, is the idea of the
center versus periphery. This is a kind of a dynamism
that profoundly impacts not only the political history,
but aspects of social history, cultural history of Iran. The term for it in Persian
is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, or [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] as a
reference to the center, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] is a
reference to the frontier, or [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] as
a reference to the frontier. And these are ideas, very old. Goes back to the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] that we talk about the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. The [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
or the center, is mostly [INAUDIBLE]
I’m talking here about the geographical binary in which
the center is usually urban. That dominates the agricultural
and the cultivation, basically in the rural
life, the agrarian life, is the settled center. Versus the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
or the frontier, which is populated mostly
by the nomadic pastoralists, and in the Iranian world,
is usually referred to as the tribes, or the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. This contest between the
center and the periphery is very profound and
virtually one major feature, by which you can explain
the political history of the period. The second one is the idea
of Iran versus non-Iran. Conceptually– there is
a concept that again, goes back to the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] the book of kings is this memories
of the pre-Islamic times, in which you see a sense of
awareness, of us versus them. That is not, by the
way, anything unusual. Virtually, in mythology of many
of the societies in the world, you can find this sense
of self and the other. And even in the
United States today, the idea of itself and
the other is very evident. In Iran, the concept was
well defined as indeed, Iran versus
[? an-Iran, ?] non-Iran. And the boundaries
between the two are doing this kind
of a geographical– mythological geography of the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] itself is referred to as the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] that are part of this non-Iran. And this is a concept
that persists. And in certain respects,
perhaps to persist after the present, this sense
of itself and the other, and this other ring of a word
in order to consolidate the self is very present, particularly
in a political sense. Another binary which
is very significant is that of the tension
between the court– that is the royal court,
the imperial court– and the administration
of this state. That is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
as its conceptualized Iranian context. You have the kings
and the ministers– basically are for a
very long time period in the history, as I
have tried to show, a sense of tension over
the control of the state. And in the Iranian case,
perhaps somewhat contrary– something’s different
from the Ottoman case– the distinction between the
courts and the administration as it became the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] in the Ottoman context. Never happened in
the Iranian history, or at least not so clearly. And all the attempts
that were made in order to differentiate the state
from the power of the ruler, or regulate this
relationship by and large failed, for reasons that– the structural reasons that I
have discussed in this book– numerous examples of
[? Vaziri ?] the execution of the viziers,
or the ministers, is a very good example of that. Or the sacking of the viziers. In the 19th century,
the famous example of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. In the 20th century, very famous
example of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] are both representatives of
this tension between the court and the administration
that was never resolved. Then, of course, something
which is very well known to any scholar of
Islamic political culture or political philosophy is this
distinction between the subject and the state. The [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] versus
the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. That distinction also
[? very ?] well– sanctified very well,
accepted throughout the course of history. And it’s only in
the modern times that we see there is a challenge
to this notion of distinction between the subjects
and the state. And that creates also
its own tensions, to which I have made
numerous references. And finally, the fifth one, that
of the religion and this state. That’s a very profound notion
of how the religion and state either collaborate
or as it turned out in later times, a conflict
over the issue of authority. So that’s a key notion
that again, goes back to the political culture
of pre-Islamic times and continued over
the course of time. And in Safavid period,
post-Safavid period, we still see the consistency of
the [? jurist ?] class versus the authority of the
[? state– ?] where these two institutions collaborate, where
these institutions regulate their authority. As it was the case, most of the
time, the judicial authority going to do jurists
in a kind of a very haphazard and unstructured way. Whereas the authority
to rule, it’s always remained with the state. This duality, this
kind of binary, again, is something
that in the modern times was subject or
challenged, and out of which is what we see
today in Iran of our time. Again, the notion of a
binary between the market and the square, as they call
it, the [? bazaar ?] versus the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
in Persian. The bazaar is a reference to the
economic quarters in the cities or all around the
country, conceptually, that dominates the
traditional trade and industries that is in
control of the merchant classes and associated
classes, the guilds. There is the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, which is an old Persian
concept by the way, a square is a reference where
the state interferes with the economic or sometimes
competes with the bazaar. And that again, you can see from
the Safavid [INAUDIBLE] and on. We can witness that kind
of interaction between– even in the sense of
a material culture, in that architecture was
defined in places like [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] where
you would see the idea of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
basically kind of– in certain aspects,
incorporates the bazaar, but in other respects,
actually tries to regulate and control it. And finally, another
notion that– another two concepts
that are of significance. One is the concept of
legal and a charismatic, or messianic notions of
authority, religious authority. You have the [? jurists, ?] but
you have also the trends that often aspire for the overthrow
of the [? jurist ?] authority. That is the messianic
movements that is so current– repeat itself in the course of
[? Shi’ism. ?] [? Shi’ism ?] in particular is very, very
receptive and a very fertile ground for the emergence
of messianic movements, whether in Iran or elsewhere. And the idea of
external versus internal is another major theme. You see two domains. In this society,
both in terms of– again, material culture,
the exteriors and interiors, in every living quarters. You can see it in the
way that the society is divided between the
interior and the exterior. The interior is mostly
the domains of the women, where they exert their
presence and their authority. And the exterior is the
world of the men, usually. Although, that’s
not always the rule. But nevertheless, this
observation of two aspects also comes into the culture,
literature, interpretation of religion. You would see that these two
notions of exterior interior exist. It’s not a modern
Bourgeois society of the 19th and
20th centuries, when the division between the
internal and external– at least in theory–
is disappearing. Here, we see that the two
concepts to two domains are honored, accepted. The duality in dealing with
the interior and exterior is fully accepted. And then finally, the concept
of patriarchy and matriarchy. We tend to always
consider societies of the Middle East or
non-Western overall in the Islamic world, as
patriarchal societies, like Western societies,
as a matter of fact. But the concept of matriarchy
is equally important, that women have a presence. They exert influence. They are in the political
structure of their state. They are exerting their
influence in the economy. Their presence in the culture,
in poetry and literature is everywhere. But you have to look– you have
to scratch the surface in order to be able to explore and
see that kind of a presence. [? Past ?] matriarchy–
I am using it because in political
context, you see that many of these
tribal societies that formed the dynasties in the
course of Islamic history also had in their
backyard, in the interior, they also had the presence of
the women, really strong women. Mughal Empire is the same,
Ottoman Empire is the same phenomena, as it’s in
the Safavid period, or post-Safavid, the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] period. Now, how much more time? [INAUDIBLE] Let me make some
conclusions, and then perhaps more can come in
the question and answer. All of these themes that
I referred to in one way or another were
challenged or undermined, perhaps some of them
completely eliminated as a result of the experience
of modernity in the region from the 20th century. Just give you one example,
the idea of the center versus periphery with the
emergence of powerful, strong states is the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] period. Basically very widely
weakens the power of the tribes in the periphery. And the society is much more
dominated by the cities. The concept of the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] versus the bazaar, the square versus
the bazaar also profoundly influenced by the emergence of
new sources of wealth that was in the control of the state. That is oil more
than anything else. From the beginning
of the century, we see the emergence of
a more powerful estate. That is the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] state– is largely indebted to the idea
of these underground resources, that it’s in control
of the state. And makes this very delicate
relationship between the square and the market. Very much in favor– power goes [? to ?]
the state, really, and the markets are weakened. In the area of the religion and
state, that’s more significant. That as part of the
strength of this state in the 20th century
because of access to these new sources of income. There is less accountability
towards society as a whole, and particularly that
the delicate relationship that is usually referred
to as the two sisters– the relationship between
the religious establishment and the state was
very much disturbed. The religious establishment,
the [? jurist ?] establishment as a result of the
forces of project of modernity, project
of secularism, were forced into an isolation. That becomes very evident in the
period from the 1920’s onward in Iran, 20’s, 30’s, after the
aftermath of the Second World War. But continuously, really,
up to 1960’s and 70’s. And as a result, shifts in
the conservative religious establishment that
considers itself as a partner to the state
into a force of dissent and eventually, a militant
revolutionary force. That we witnessed
by the 1970’s, what emerges out of [? qom ?] and
the religious clergy led by– I mean, symbolically with
somebody like [? Khomeini, ?] who is completely an
unexpected, or rather, I should say unprecedented
example of religious [? jurists ?] claiming
political authority. This had never happened,
despite whatever the Islamic republic tells us. There is no this there is
no precedence for the idea of the guardianship of the
[? jurist. ?] For the idea that the [? jurists ?]
are no longer the– in control of the judiciary
or aspects of judiciary. But they are indeed in
control of political power. That’s the first
time in the course of Iranian history, perhaps
Islamic history, that is ever happened. So what’s the
outcome of this, that comes as a result of this
massive [? change? ?] That comes because of aspects
of modernity that changes the society throughout
is something that we don’t know
the outcome of it. Whether the project
of Islammic education or if the state or political
power is a successful one remains to be seen. After all, this is the 40th
year after revolution of 1979. And we still see in power the
clerical establishment with a certain degree of using
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, the idea of the
group solidarity. There is still the sense
that they are together, despite all of
their differences, despite all of the
inner conflicts. As a dominant group
that governs the state, they remain in power. What’s going to
come out of this? We don’t know. That’s a phenomenon
unprecedented, really, in the long history
of Iran, or perhaps in the whole history of the
Islamic world as a whole. So whether they would
be able to succeed in changing the society
in their own image is even more questionable. Whether the society that
we see in the past 40 years emerging under the
Islamic republic is something that the state
would like to see or to accept remains to be seen. It’s certainly very different
from their prototype that they have been
propagating in the earlier years of the revolution. So there is a sense of
cultural continuity. I ended up my book with a
positive, optimistic tone, that’s saying that although the
political system has changed although we see that this is
a completely new phenomenon that we are witnessing. Yet at the same time,
we see that there is a certain sense of
cultural memory that persists. And that, despite all
the social engineering or cultural engineering
of the Islamic republic, has not disappeared. So I will stop here. If you like, I can
show some images that is not covering
all of what I’ve said, but covers parts
of it, just to give some flavor to this stuff. Or we can go to
question and answer. [INAUDIBLE] see the images. OK, sure. This is the part about the– I said Iran, it’s great powers. Because I used the pronoun in
order to emphasize the fact that this concept of Iran versus
[? an-Iran ?] always needs another. And this other consolidates,
basically, it’s very, very inner consistency. I’ve started again
from the 16th century. This is the famous battle. [SIDE CONVERSATION] The one on the left is a
portrayal of the famous battle fought with the Ottomans. And the Iranians
were decisively lost in the battle of Chaldiran. That would basically determine
the future of the region, and made Iran after the Safavid
period much more contained within what we would call the
natural boundaries of Iran. And access to the Mediterranean
basically was cut off. And the Ottoman
world developed all through the Arab
world from there on. But as far as the Iranians
were concerned, a century later in 1603, that portrays– this is in the palace
of [INAUDIBLE].. It shows Abbas I
defeating the Ottomans in a very famous
battle that takes back, basically much of Iran has
lost as a result of the wars during the age of
[? Solomon ?] the first and recaptured this kind
of territorial integrity of the empire. The concept of diplomacy
emerges, so it’s not all wars. This is the kind of
thing [INAUDIBLE] the one on the
left showing Abbas I with his contemporary Emperor
Jahangir of Mughal empire. They never met, actually. But this is a
presentation in order to show that these two are
friends and supporters of one another. For Iran, it was very important,
developing the diplomacy with the Mughal empire. Not only because of the great
wealth of Mughal empire, as opposed to Safavid Iran. But also because of the
counterbalance to the Ottomans. And counterbalance
also to the Uzbeks, which Iran in the eastern
fronts always face– Iran was a two front
empire, Safavid empire. So on the one hand
were the Ottomans and the other hand
were the Uzbeks. [INAUDIBLE] Sunni powers that
were basically threatening the empire, the Shia empire. Therefore, a greater
affinity with the Mughals was part of the
political strategy. Or the control of
the island of Hormuz that was taken back from the
Portuguese in the [? central ?] control over this
Southern waterways through the Persian Gulf. Also, basically brought
the economy of the empire– south of the empire to the
south through the Persian Gulf– made Iran access to
Europe for the first time through the Persian Gulf. Or in the 19th
century, as you can see in this painting of Fath
Ali Shah receiving Sir John Malcolm and the representatives
of East India company on the right of the painting. In a very ritualistic
way, where Fath Ali Shah is still in the early years of
the [INAUDIBLE] the universe, he’s at the center
of his own world. So the passive [? realization ?]
of where they considered themselves [? vizier ?]
with the outside world. Took a while before
they recognize not only the navel, but also the
military and diplomatic power, and then eventually, the
economic power of the west. This goes through a process. And part of it is diplomacy
with the East India Company. Part of it is war
with Russia, as you can see in a depiction
of the war that was fought between the Iranians
and the Russians in 1805. Eventually, it resulted in the
loss of the entire Caucasus to Russia and annexation
of the region. Another important
recognition of the fact that they are living in a
different world than before. Or war reparations to Russia
in 1828. [? There’s ?] a very striking series of paintings
in which I have produced two of them, I think, in my book. That the Iranians
are paying indemnity to the victorious
Russians, which basically bankrupted the [? Baja ?]
government in 1828. Or war with Britain
in the Persian Gulf over the control of Herod
in today’s western Afghanistan, that was second capital
of Iran [INAUDIBLE] of the Safavid period. And as a result of the
engagement in war with British, they eventually gave
up the whole idea of ever engaging Western power. In the course of the
19th century, [INAUDIBLE] realization of the fact
that their own place in the new world that is
emerging in the 19th century. [? Or ?] they the
whole experience of the constitutional
revolution. This is the example of
the first parliament, the first [? majlis ?]
in 1906 that faced not only with the internal
resistance by the Royalists and the Civil War
that was fought for the entire
year in 1908, 1909. What with the Russians
who actually supported the Royalists against the
[? constitutionalists. ?] And eventually, the British
who supported the Royalists against the constitutionalists. As you can see here,
this is the nationalists fighting in Tabriz, a full
urban war with the Royalists supported by the Russians. In 1907, there is a famous
agreement between the Russian and British, that
Iran was divided into zones of influence. At the same time that
they were claiming that sovereignty of Iran
is going to remain intact, but that’s the outcome of it. Where Russia is
actually interfering in internal affairs. Or during the course of the
First World War in 1916, you see the Russian and the
Indian army in the British Indian Army in the city of
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] in front of the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
the administrative headquarters of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
during this Safavid period. And it is this sense by the
Democrats, the nationalists who were fighting against
the British in the south. So this I brought in order
to show that one should not look at countries like
Iran as purely accepting the forces of intrusion
of European powers. But as a matter of fact,
a great deal of resistance during the course of the
First World War and after. Here, the presence
of the Americans are important because
the Iranians would bring their makers into
the constitutional period to help them. The outcome of it is that
the Anglo Russian ultimatum forces Iran to actually expel
it’s American advisors that were brought in to help with
the centralization of the– after finances. The one at the bottom is in the
memory of Howard Baskerville, who died an American
missionary teaching in Tabriz, who died during this
civil war around 1909. And he was commemorated. Iranians were very,
very appreciative of the American support
[INAUDIBLE] of course, before the days of the Cold War. On the right, you can
see during the famine that Iran suffered during
the First World War– perhaps close to a million
and a half, or 2 million– that is probably 10% to
15% of Iran’s population died as a result of the Spanish
flu, or because of the famine. And there was an attempt on
the side of the American relief organizations to help Iranians. As you can see, the number of
countries that I mentioned, Armenia, Greece,
Syria, and Persia. Already can see the
presence of American– kind of a good friend
decide of the United States becoming very common. In the left, you see is one of
the early advertisements where the Dutch car is in Iraq. That is in 1935. Cars became very
common, very popular in Iran, like everywhere
else in the world. Enormous presence
of the United States as the greatest producer
of cars at the time. The one in the middle is by
an American [? graphist, ?] American painter, who came to
Iran around 1930s, mid-1930s, and did a series of sketches. I like it because he
pays attention to women and how the women are changing. As you can see in several of
the sketches that he had made, he has tried to show the new
face of the Iranian women. And on the right is
self-explanatory. King Solomon’s Mines is
a famous Hollywood movie. There is a lot of
action-packed movies that came to Iran
through Hollywood and made the first perceptions
of Iranians of the United States, basically of
this popular culture. Or during the war, as
you can see on the left, this is a fascinating
series of posters that were produced
by the Allies to do the propaganda against the
Nazis and their allies using the Iranian legends. On the left it, shows Kaveh,
the famous popular figure from the Shahnameh, who is
making a complaint to Zahak, the evil tyrant of Iran, who
ruled over Iran for 1,000 years according to the
Shahnameh legends. And here it was portrayed
as Hitler and Goebbels and the rest. And then on the
right, as you can see, is a moment of
victory when Kaveh is now supported by the three
leaders of the Allied forces, is the Churchill,
Stalin, and Roosevelt, as you can see on the right. And with the body of Hitler
and the Emperor Hirohito, you can see their corpses. At the same time during the
war, the Second World War, Iran played a fairly
important part in providing supplies
of land lease program. And the presence of
the Americans, this is an aircraft assembly
field in [INAUDIBLE] that brought equipment,
the largest, perhaps, hardware during the
Second World War that was moved from
one place to another is from south of
Iran to north of Iran to help the Soviets during
the Battle of Stalingrad. So Iran was basically occupied
for the second time as a result and brought again a period
of rather disheartening political change in Iran. The discovery of oil, as I
pointed out, it came in 1908. It’s the first discovery
of oil in the Middle East. In the middle is the British
occupation of Abadan, a refinery during
World War II, this was the largest refinery
in the world at the time. And completely under
the British control, as much of the income of the oil
that was produced in Iran went, only 16% was returned to Iran
and with great difficulty. And then during the– 1951, when Iran declared the
oil industry as nationalized, the British, in protest, left. And of course, that
eventually brought a period of great crisis. We have here Mr.
[INAUDIBLE],, who is an expert on the subject. We see in this
painting, when Mosaddeq negotiates with the Americans. This is with Dean
Acheson in 1952 when he visits the
United States and tries to persuade the Americans
to come on the side of Iran against the claims
of the British, eventually unsuccessfully. And the one on the
right shows you how the Tudeh pro-Soviet
political parties in Iran were portraying the
nationalist leader as being nothing but a
stooge of the Americans, as we can see here,
with an element of the swastika added to it. This is Mosaddeq in the center,
the way it was produced. He’s a puppet. And there of course, the
whole anti-American banners during the Tudeh
Party rally in ’53. This is the height of
the crisis of 1951, ’53, that eventually led to
the coup of August 1953 and the sacking of Mosaddeq and
the nationalist parties in Iran and reassertion of
the shah in power. That is covered in
my book, and the way that the shah was received. Mosaddeq and the fall of
Mosaddeq and the coup of ’53 was one thing. The reassertion of the
shah and support for him through and through in the
1960s and ’70s was another. As you can see, in 1961,
this is incredible– tickertape reception in the
Fifth Avenue in New York City. I doubt any longer that
United States give that kind of reception for any leader. With Kennedy on the
right, who tries to modify some of the
policies of the shah, somewhat successfully. And of course, later on during
the tenure of Mr. Kissinger, you see very close interaction
with the Iranian statesmen. This is with Hovayda
[INAUDIBLE] on his right, and with [? Abbas ?]
[INAUDIBLE],, the foreign minister,
next to him– next to his wife, actually– and
in a night cabaret in Tehran. That was recently FBI discovered
among the private papers of Mr. Kissinger that was given
to [INAUDIBLE] University, so that was my take of it. With Carter during the
famous visit to the White House in 1977 that resulted in
the famous students’ protest, the Confederation
of Iranian Students protesting against the shah, and
was a very embarrassing moment because of the
canisters of gas that was thrown by the Washington
police through the crowd. The direction of the
wind brought much of it into where Carter and Shah and
[INAUDIBLE],, President Carter was standing, and
he started crying because of tears coming out. And I said, this is the first
cry over the revolution of 1979 which happened a year
and a half later. And as you can see,
these are the students protesting at the bottom. Or during the revolution, scenes
from the US embassy being taken over and the emergence
of the Great Satan, which was part and parcel of this
idea of self and the other, this is Aniran, the emergence
of a new Aniran, in a sense. And during the
demonstrations, that says, death to the
American Senate, because of a resolution
that was passed just before the victory of
the 1979 revolution in support of the shah
by the American Senate. Or during the period of the
early years of the revolution, you can see anti-US cartoons
in the leftist press, which is still going on in 1980,
as it presents basically all the Islamic Republic’s
efforts to try to silence all its opposition as nothing
but an American conspiracy, as you can see here. Or on the right, you can see
so much of an anti-American propaganda in a revolutionary
postcard in 1980 that says, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. US cannot do a damn thing. That was an utterance by
Ayatollah Khomeini, which became very famous,
and the central part of that idea of the Great
Satan wouldn’t be able to. We are immune against the
forces of the Great Satan. Or all kinds of propaganda,
as you can see here in the poster of a
gathering, the [INAUDIBLE] liberation movements in Tehran. That invited a whole range
of these mostly marginal anti-American or liberation
trends that leading by Iran is now destroying
the White House. Or all the posters that you can
see still it today’s Tehran, anti-American mural in Tehran– [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
death to America. Or what happens,
that’s the last point that I brought up in my talk. As you can see here, this is
the 2009 famous Green Movement that brought close to a million
Iranians or probably more into the streets of
Tehran in protest against the rigging
of the elections that brought Ahmadinejad for
the second term to power. And as you can see, this
anti-regime Green Movement on the streets of
Tehran is very powerful, a very clear indication
that, even as late as 2009, the Islamic Republic
basically could not dominate the political
movement, the political trends, the desire to create
a more liberal, more open political space. Or today, as you can see
here, 2017, these kind of demonstrations in
the streets of Tehran or other cities, or small
cities even, are fairly common. Every day that you open the
paper, there is something, there is some kind of
protest against the regime, or by women, as you can
see here on the right. This is a famous
case of removing the hijab or the scarf,
basically, in front of the Tehran University,
showing, again, the fact that this society
is still basically grappling with many of the issues
that remain unresolved. And the Islamic
Republic does not seem to have an
answer for it, but it lives in a state of crisis and
survives, at least up to now. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much. Can you take some questions? Sure. Please. Thank you, Dr.
Amanat, a collective thank you for this very
rich series of reflections. And another magnum opus,
so congratulations. Thank you so much. My question is about
1501 and where to start. You mention that as
a point of departure. That’s always a big debate and
tough question for historians. I’m asking about why 1501
and not earlier, given that– and I know you’re
not doing this, but I can see 1501 being
a great point of departure for official historians today
of the Islamic Republic, for example. Because it’s a Shi’a Iran,
it’s a collective put together almost pre-national, becoming
nat– and all the reasons. But that seems to
me to say, well, why not before, given
things seem more fluid? It’s more cosmopolitan,
central Iranian plateau, that is Sunni as much as
Shi’a, in fact more so. And all the great poets
that you mentioned– Rumi, Ferdowsi,
Saadi, Hafez, who are not associated with
Shi’ism, or not Shi’a at all in most cases. And then of course the
pre-Islamic ancient history. So yeah, if you could just– why not? It’s a very well taken,
very well taken point. You are making the job of
historian more difficult than what it is
starting with 1501. The point about a cultural
continuity is very well taken. The Safavid period is not
particularly a fertile period for the kind of
cultural fluorescence that you see in the
13th and 14th century under the Timurids, for
instance, or the [INAUDIBLE] for that matter, starting
from Saadi and [INAUDIBLE].. All the great classics
of Persian literature come to an end. Actually yesterday, Dick Davis
was giving a talk at Yale. It was all the talk about
women poetry in Iran. And he was saying that,
by the Safavid period, there’s a period of silence. He could not find a great number
of women poets in the Safavid period. But immediately after
the Safavid period, with the Zand and the
[INAUDIBLE],, they re-emerged. So you are right,
in the sense that, perhaps if one wants to write
a cultural history of Iran, it is inevitable that you have
to look back at the period that necessarily
religion or this kind of denominational
differences does not play as important part as these
kinds of memories of the past or the sense of
Iranian integration. But I looked at the
period more holistically, namely that it’s
not only culture. It’s the political formation. Even the social
formation of Iran becomes much more homogenized
under the Safavids, compared to what it was before. It’s not any longer a kind of
a scattered Timurid empire. After all, [INAUDIBLE],,
as I’ve shown in the first chapter of this
book, basically reunites Iran. There are 17 different
semi-autonomous powers or governments or small
enclaves throughout Iran. That changes over a
period less than 20 years, less than 15 years, really. And it survives. There’s a stress test. It’s not an
ephemeral phenomenon. That’s something that survives. So that’s what I meant by
these magical ingredients, that there are certain elements
in it that makes it survive. And therefore, 1501 makes a
good departure for anybody who wants to look at how
a modern notion of nation emerges in Iran, because
there is a background to it. This is not any imported notion
of [INAUDIBLE] or the kind of a French notion
of nationalism. Of course, that was
also incorporated in the Constitutional Period. But the origins of
it is very different. It comes from kind of
an indigenous sense of nation-building that comes
with the Safavids, I believe. Yes, please. I want t second that
thank you for [INAUDIBLE].. Just to follow up
on the [INAUDIBLE] over the period of cultural
[? silence ?] [INAUDIBLE],, I want to say,
during the ’70s we have the greatest
campaigns of architecture and also painting, so just
wanted to mention that. That was all. I actually did– thank you very
much for that comment, which is very corrective. In a sense, it has
been often argued that the closure
of the horizons, the literary horizons,
brought about a period of great architectural
fluorescence in paintings. The [? mode had ?] changed,
but the creativity somewhat continues, as it is today. Look at today’s Iran. Who would have expected,
even in the mid-’70s– although there were some good
examples of Iranian cinema, but there is this kind of
an extraordinary emergence of the Iranian cinema as
the most important medium for artistic expression, or
socio-artistic expressions, that comes about in the
post-revolutionary era. Perhaps, as I have
mentioned here actually, that it is as if the
language of words and poetry no longer works. Iran in the 1960s had a great
movement of modern poetry, some of perhaps
the greatest poets of the post-Safavid period
emerged in the 1950s and ’60s. Yet by 1980s and ’90s, there
aren’t very many of them. We don’t see these great
masters of Persian poetry, but we see great
cinema re-emerging. So it basically
substitutes that medium. So it can be
obviously essential. And of course to the credit
of the Safavid period, there is a period of intense,
intellectual, philosophical engagement, as the so-called
the School of Isfahan, which is actually
the School of Shiraz, but it’s known as the
School of Isfahan, emerges with these
great examples of philosophical speculation,
with Mulla Sadra, [INAUDIBLE],, their students and so forth. Which incidentally, in the book,
I have received a lot of heat from people who criticized
me for why I am criticizing Mulla Sadra and the
School of Isfahan for not really delivering
modernity the way that they could have. Because there are
elements, ingredients of that, in the
philosophy of the period. But nevertheless, it’s
important to know, it’s the only
country at the time– I don’t know whether Professor
[? Bashir ?] agrees with me or not– but you see, about the only
part of the Islamic world that philosophy
still was exercised. Or of course later
on in South Asia, you see the continuity
of Mulla Sadra’s coup. That’s about the only one. So why is it that Isfahan or
Iran of the Safavid Period develops this interest
towards philosophy, which, in my opinion,
has remained unanswered? Although there is some
continuity with the Timurid Period, this fluorescence
of philosophical thinking in this period is
very much [? of it. ?] I try to tie it up with
the Messianic movements, with the [INAUDIBLE],,
particularly, which was a kind of mystical
materialist of the period, and may have had a much
greater influence than what appears on the surface,
including the ruler himself, was the first, who,
for a period of time, was actually a follower
of General [INAUDIBLE].. So it’s important to take
that into account, as well. Thank you for your talk. I’m an historian of
the Ottoman Empire. Sorry, we’ll do this
very officially. Thank you very
much for your talk. I really appreciated it. I’m somebody who works
on contemporary Turkey and the Ottoman
Empire, so this kind of sweeping narrative of
Iran and the adjacent world to the Ottomans was
very interesting for me. But I wanted to ask you a
question about the stakes of a project like this. I know writing 1,000-page book
is not something that one does overnight. I’ve been working
on it for a while. But I was wondering if
you could reflect some on the stakes of putting
together a narrative of Iran in the way that you’ve done
at the time that you’ve done. Thank you so much. Great question. There is always a danger. And any kind of a long-term
assessment of the history of any part of the world
or any civilization, as it was very common in the
1940s and ’50s in Europe– the numerous
example, of course– is risky. And it’s a venture, as actually
Marshall [? Hudson ?] tells you, is the venture
of Islam, so it is a kind of a venture to try
to write that kind of history. And I think, like any other
work of historiography, it has its own life. I’m very realistic about it. More specifically
to your point, it’s a sacrifice to try to write
that kind of a history. And in my case, I did
not really aim for it. My publisher said,
look, why don’t you just write a book for us to
answer this question– why, after 70 years of intense
secularism in Iran, we have an Islamic revolution? This was the question that
was posed to me by the editor at the Yale University Press. And he wanted a book probably
about 300 pages, printed pages. And I really aimed at that. I thought it was four
years, five years, it’s going to be done. But whether it was
a lack of discipline on my side or
being overambitious or, in my own
perspective, trying to engage in much deeper
question that what others have done. I didn’t want to do what the
others have already done. So that took me back to try
to look at the longer period. And in the process– this took probably
20 years of my time, but I did other things. I wrote other books, I
wrote other articles, but this was going on all the
time, and at some sacrifice I must admit. Well, one advantage if
it is that I learned a great deal in the process. So writing a book like that
requires a lot of research, reading secondary works,
and for that matter even, primary sources. I looked at a huge number
of primary sources. Unfortunately in a book like
this, you cannot footnote it. Because if I wanted
to footnote it, I should have referred,
not to primary sources, because it’s useless to the
audience that read this book, and secondary works that I
wanted to make reference to, the studies that
I want to make– it would have taken a
huge amount of space and basically was
not serving much. Because at the end
of the book, there’s a further reading of 30 pages,
and they’ve gone section by section, chapter by chapter,
giving all the works that I thought would be useful
to anybody who wants to look at a specific period. But I learned a great deal. And that was
something, it’s a risk, in a sense, that you would
spend too much of your time, like these great
biblical productions by Hollywood that may eventually
turn out to be a failure. So it could have been a failure. Probably it is a failure. I don’t know. But well, it’s
received, so far, well. And I’m still waiting
for scholarly journals’ review of this book, which
usually is very late. But there was a session– I don’t know if anybody here
attended in the Iranian Studies Biennial Conference
in Irvine last August. There was a special
panel for this book. And five people, my
colleagues, talked. And it was very
actually interesting, I think, this session. Because each of
them was basically very a specialist
of the period, and I was very worried what
they were going to say. And whether it was
my presence there or whatever the reason
was, they were very polite and they liked the book. So I think probably it
paid off to some extent. And as I said, lots of people,
lots of people, tell me, there is bits and
pieces, but it is not kind of a synthesizing
of a bigger picture, and this does the job, or at
least I hope it does the job. Yes, please. Thank you. A quick followup
question, which is simply, is it going to be
translated into Persian and what do you expect the
reaction in Iran to be? Actually it’s a saga
that I should reveal to you what has happened. Because even before the
publication of this book, I was worried about the
fact, what’s going to happen. Iran is not a member of the
International Copyright– what is it? Convention. Convention– thank you so much. So they can do
whatever they like in terms of translation
or mutilation or whatever you would call it. So I found a publisher, a
very reputable publisher who signed a contract with
me, not for financial reasons, but what was for
the fact that there should be some kind of
commitment on both sides. And I found a translator
to do a good job. And he [INAUDIBLE]. He started doing
the translation. A few weeks ago
or there about, we heard that there are two
other translations going on, one by somebody
who I vaguely know, and the other one by
somebody who I absolutely have no idea who this guy is. And he’s ahead of the game,
because he had apparently finished within a year to– god knows what kind of
a translation it is. But he has gone– that’s the next
stage– it has gone to the Ministry of
Islamic Guidance, because you have
to pass the test. And the answer is very unclear
whether they would actually like this book to
be published or not. And in the meantime,
as late as the day before yesterday,
somebody showed me that half the book has
already been translated, and it is online. So I cannot do
anything about it, so it’s rather tragic
what’s happening. Let’s see if there’s
any other questions. Thank you, Sheriff Garcia. I was in the overflow
room yesterday, so I do believe in speaking
into the microphone. You did mention a
couple of times I think once, specifically with the
beginning of the Pahlavi period, and once
when you were talking about [INAUDIBLE] about
the arrival of modernity or the delivery of
modernity into Iran. I know this is a very sort
of a capacious discourse. It’s very difficult to
ask it in one question. But I wonder how you imagined
the relationship, how you theorized the arrival
of modernity in Iran. Do you see the public
in a passive space of just simply absorbing
and accepting it, or do you see there
is an active sort of public process in
appropriating, in a sense, modernity? Yes, thank you so much. It’s a great question. I think this question of agency
in accepting and modifying and appropriating it
in their own terms definitely is going on. Possibly goes on
much earlier, as I said, even from the
Safavid period on, this grappling with notions that
could be considered as modern– the notions of
subjectivity, human agency. The sense of thinking
of another approach to questions of
faith and divinity, that it’s already in
the air, no doubt, and it could be clearly
shown that this is the case. However, we can refer to
the subject of the book that Professor
[? Bashir ?] mentioned, the resurrection and renewal. My attempt is basically
to try to show that, within these
Messianic movements, there is always
tendencies to create an alternative form of religion,
after all the [? bodies ?] considered declared, the
Islamic cycle coming to an end. And this has happened twice
in the course of this Safavid and the [INAUDIBLE] period. Declaring the end of Islam
and the new revelatory cycle, I think it’s an
important phenomenon. I think probably your
study also shows. The [INAUDIBLE] [? Shi’a ?]
have some of that tendency. I don’t know whether
you agree with me or not from what I remember
from your book. So that side is
different from what emerges in the late 19th
and early 20th century, in these kind of Western
notions of modernity. Iranian become
much more conscious of imperial presence, which
earlier on in the century does not exist. This sense of blaming
yourself for the domination of the European powers is
the narrative of the earlier part of the century. That shifts. By the Constitutional
Revolution, you hear that there is
a better understanding of the forces of
imperial domination, Western imperial domination. That’s one part of this
acceptance or appropriation of modernity. After all, it’s a
remarkable phenomenon. The constitutionality
revolution, I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying that
it’s the only popular movement of the early 19th century. I hope, especially since
the late Ottoman period and the rise of the
Republic of Turkey are not going to be offended. But if you compare it, say for
instance to the Young Turks Revolution, the level
of popular participation during the Constitutional
Revolution is enormous. You see people in the
street, they are protesting, they are demanding. It’s not just an elite
who makes a decision. Elite plays an important part,
but it’s not the only one. So in that regard, I
think the acceptance of the concepts of liberal
democracy, party politics, parliamentarianism,
election, these are concepts that naturally
comes from the outside. But they manage
somewhat successfully to incorporate and try
to answer, somewhat unsuccessfully, how the two
domains of state and religion could be defined in terms
of constitutionalism. The whole debate between
the mass shooter, the concept that they come
from the Ottoman Empire, of a more secularized form
of constitution versus what the Iranians coined as
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, meaning, as a form of constitution,
in which Sharia is the very foundation. That remained
unresolved, in a sense, to the whole of
the 20th century, grappling with the
notion that how modernity is going to deal with
this duality of authority in the society. Eventually, I think
the Islamic Revolution is the final outcome of it. So there is a line between
the Constitutional Revolution, post-war era,
post-Second World War era and the Islamic Revolution. It’s all trying to resolve
this problem of how to deal with the authority. I think this is a
form of modernity that although had
its genesis in what comes from the outside, in
terms of parliament, election, and so forth, but
it’s very much, I favor the word passionized. Particularly in areas
of material culture, in areas of even
painting, architecture, not necessarily always
in a political context, you see that kind
of incorporation. It’s rather skillfully done. They are not completely slaves
of what the West dictates, but it’s tried to
incorporate to it. The period when enslavement
becomes more evident is the early Pahlavi era. It’s the kind of positivism
of early Pahlavi era. Leave aside anything
of your past and just embrace what farang,
what the West would give you. So it depends what
period of time, but that wasn’t very successful,
as we see how [INAUDIBLE] today. OK, so I think we’ve
worked you enough. There’s a reception
after this, so please, we can continue the
conversation over there. So we can say thank
you very much for the– Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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