Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene
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Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene

September 12, 2019


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C.>>Joan Weeks: Good
afternoon everyone. I think we’ll go ahead
and get started. Some of our colleagues will
join us as they can get off duty and lunch hours, things like that. On behalf of my colleagues and in
particular, Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief of the African and
Middle East Division, I’d like to welcome everyone to
this very special lecture today. I’m Joan Weeks, head of the Near
East Section, which is the sponsor of today’s program along with Roshan
Institute for Persian Studies. We’re very pleased to continue the
Persian Book Lecture Series this year with the 2016 focus on
literature and the performing arts. With this program,
“Persophilia Persian Culture on the Global Scene”. But before we start today’s
program and introduce the speaker, I’d like to give you a brief
overview of our division and the resources in the hopes
that you’ll come back again and do your research
here, use our collections and enjoy some future programs. This is a custodial division which
has three sections that build and serve the collections from two
researchers from around the world. We cover over 75 countries
and two dozen languages. The Africa section includes all
the countries of sub-Sahara Africa. The Hebraic section covers
Hebraic and Judaic a worldwide. And the Near East section covers all of the Arab countries including
North Africa, Turkey, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, the Muslims in
Western China, Russia, the Vulcans and the people of the Caucuses. So, it’s a very extensive
area coverage. After this program,
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you ask a question at the end, you’re implicitly giving your
permission to be taped, videotaped, and also, you’ll be able
to have this program about six weeks from now. We will be uploading it on our
website and the URL feed available to researchers worldwide. So, that’s another added advantage. So, without further ado, I’d
like to invite Hirad Dinavari, our Persian specialist
to give a few words. Thank you.>>Hirad Dinavari: Thank you Joan. And thank everyone for coming
day after the election. I wanted to just in two seconds
say that this is the finale for the Persian Book Lecture
Series for this year, 2016. Our partner, Dr. Fatemeh
Keshavarz is here and we’ve been doing this
now from 2013 onwards. Our lectures again, pick
up next year in 2017 and it would not have been
possible without the help and effort of wonderful folks at University
of Maryland, Summer, Susan, prior to that Noz and of course Dr.
Keshavarz and Dr. Ahmet Karmaustafa and of course Matt himself. So, without taking too much time,
I just want to mention stay tuned in 2017 we’ll continue and thank you
so much for your support and coming. And now, I’m going to introduce
Keshavarz from the University of Maryland who will
introduce the speaker. Thank you.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Thank Hirad,
I’m not going to take a whole lot of time so that you can
actually hear the speaker. Dr. Dabashi was here when we had
our major exhibit that brought, you know, 1,000 years of the
Persian Book that brought about 1 million visitors
to the library and he gave a beautiful
concluding presentation. He is a very distinguished
scholar of Persian studies in many, many different fronts. He was born in Iran and did his
early stages of his education in Tehran before he moved to the
United States, and he did a Ph.D., both in History and in Sociology
at the University of Pennsylvania. And ever since then, he has
been writing on numerous books and articles in areas
staring with sociology of the Muslim majority cultures in
the world, to Islamic philosophy, and that really is something that makes Professor
Dabashi’s work unique in a way because it’s deeply rooted
both in the textual tradition but at the same time
in the social realities of the world in which we live. The book before this one,
that he’s going to talk about on Persian literature
humanities is really a unique contribution to the works
coming out of the humanistic and literary tradition of
Persian within the Islamic context in which it came to be
and to enrich the world. But in addition to all of
that, he’s worked in cinema, he has written beautiful works on
the study of cinema and I would like to draw attention before
transregional matters became very fashionable, he always did
his work transregionally, by looking beyond the you know, the limited geographical
area we call Iran. So, without further ado, let me just
call on Professor Hamid Dabashi, please welcome him to speak about
his latest book “Persophilia” which is available here, and I’m
looking personally, looking forward to reading it, since I
haven’t had a chance yet. So, Hamid please.>>Hamid Dabashi: Ah, good afternoon
everyone, thank you for coming. Especially on a how shall I say? Dramatic and traumatic
day like this. I’m absolutely delighted to be here
next to being at home with my family and reassuring my children this
is the place that I like to be, in the company of my
dearest friends. Before which I’d like to express my
gratitude to the Library of Congress for generously, kindly, graciously,
this is twice hosting me here. And particularly Mr. Dinavari and
my colleague Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz for being so, gracious
and kind to my work. Writing as I’m sure you
know is a very private and insular event, when we work. We’re always like a potter, I always
use the metaphor of a pottery, when you’re in your
pottery workshop. And then every once in a while, you
look at one pot say, well it’s ready to go, so put it on your
window for people to watch. Speaking of watching,
as Dr. Keshavarz said, I have lots of filmmaker friends. And these filmmaker friends read my
books and make movies about them. So, there’s a short
clip about this book that I think is the
best introduction to what this book is about. I’d like to ask you please, to
take a few minutes to look at, to watch it and then I’ll talk more. [ Music ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Mozart’s
“Magic Flute”, Handle’s “Xerxes”, Puccini’s “Turandot”, Nietzsche
“Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, Goethe’s “West-ostlicher Divan”,
Hagel’s “Philosophy of History”, Edward FitzGerald’s
“Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, Matthew Arnold’s “Tragedy
of Shohrab and Rustum”, Montesquieu’s “Persian Letters”,
Gauguin and Cézanne’s paintings. There is an endless list of
the masters and masterpieces of European art, literature,
music, poetry and philosophy, in which we note an irresistible
attraction to things Persian. An attraction that marks the multifarious Persophilia. [ Chirping Crickets ] [ Orchestral Music ]>>Hamid Dabashi: What is the
origin and where for the destination of the European and dance global
fascination with things Persian? In “Persophilia Persian
Culture on the Global Scene”, I explore the landscape of
the spectacular circulation of ideas between East and West. That effectively dismantles
those two coded illusions and posits a global scene upon
which Persian culture was a staged. From the Biblical stories
of Esther and Mordecai, to Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia”, from the
philosophies of Hegel and Nietzsche, to the music of Handel and Mozart. From the poetry of Matthew
Arnold’s “Shohrab and Rustum” and FitzGerald’s “Rubaiyat
of Omar Khayyam”, to the classical texts ranging from
Montesquieu’s “Persian Letters” to Goethe’s “West-oestlichier
Divan”. From the rise of European
enlightenment and romanticism to the height of American
transcendentalism. Down to the ground-breaking
arts of Gauguin and Matisse, I map out a spectacular
geography of European social, intellectual and artistic history. In which, Persia and Persian
culture were definitive and which in turn went back to Iran and
its Persian continental context, to cause groundbreaking
historical changes. [ Opera Singing ] [ Orchestral Music ]>>Hamid Dabashi: The result is that
aesthetically provocative reading from world cultural and political
history, seismic in its proportions, unnerving in its dismantling of
[inaudible] and transformative in its theoretical implications,
for radically altering or reading of the post-Colonial nation states. In my “Persophilia”, I seek
critically to alter our conception of the European and therefore,
global fascination with Persia and by extension Oriental
culture by locating it on the transnational bourgeois
public sphere and thus show it to be definitive to the social,
intellectual and artistic movements of the 18th and the 19th century. From the enlightenment
and romanticism to the American and
French Revolutions. [ Opera Singing ] [ Orchestral Music ]>>Hamid Dabashi: But all of
that is only half of the story of “Persophilia”, for my concern
with the European fascination with the Persian culture does
not remain stationary and static from the European sight and
travels eastward to Iran and its continental
environment to see in what particular ways the
echoes and reflections of this “Persophilia” turn out to
play transformative roles in the course of nation states. The production of a transnational
public sphere and the formation and the post-Colonial subject. [ Orchestral Music ] [ Opera Singing ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Determined
to radically to recast our understanding of
European and non-European social and cultural history, my
“Persophilia” is performed in a dramatic key in
comparative, cultural criticism. Effectively decentering Europe
but bringing it into the fold of the larger, regional
and global history. With esteem and waiver and gaze, “Persophilia” harbors neither
an animosity towards the West, nor an historical celebration
of ideas and social formations in the East. Dismantling that false binary by
follow the similarity of capital, labor and marketplace of ideas and
social movements they occasion. And thus, seek to reveal
a vision of global history that will break new epistemic
grounds for the next generation of a scholarship to come. [ Opera Singing ] [ Orchestral Music ] [ Opera Singing ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Well, as
you can tell for the duration of writing this book, I was
in the company of my music, looking at beautiful
paintings and so forth. Now, let me summarize in addition to
what you just heard, what were some of my concerns that
drew me this study. As I’m sure know, there
is a groundbreaking study by my own dear friend and late
colleague Edward Said called “Orientalism” published 1978. The basic argument with Said as you
know, is the production of a kind of knowledge above the
Orient that was concomitant with the European age
of Colonialism. Prior to Edward Said’s study, in
the 1950’s a French historian, Raymond had written a book called
“The Oriental Renaissance”. Raymond Schwab. And the point of Raymond Schwab
in “Oriental Renaissance” was how in addition to the other Renaissance
that we know, there was a period of attraction to things oriental,
particularly Indian culture that was influential
in the formation of European culture of the period. My study of “Persophilia”
is somewhere in between those two studies, but
more, specifically about things that Europeans call Persia. Not Orient at large, but very
specifically about Europe. And it’s at some point in
the book, I said the — devil of orientalism is in
the detail of persophilia. The fact that Europeans have been
attentive to the Iranian history from the Hebrew Bible to
classical antiquity is known. Cyrus the Great appears
in the Hebrew Bible. Repeatedly the Book of Esther is
about a period in Jewish history that has to do with a Persian queen. And also, the classical antiquity
Exodus’ “Persian” for example, Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia”, the
book about Cyrus the Great, which we are in the
presence of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson had a copy of
Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia” and in fact, he wrote marginally on
the – on his own copy. Xenophon was contemporary of Plato
both of them students of Socrates and in fact for a period of time,
“Cyropaedia” competed with Plato’s “Republic” as a mirror for princes. At any rate, these are
more classical period. In the first chapter I do talk about these classical periods. But my interest is more
on 17th and 18th century when these attractions
to these things Persian. For example, in Montesquieu’s
“Persian Letters”, I asked why would Montesquieu
be interested in something called
“Persian Letters”? It’s a book of satire about these
two fictive Iranians who come to France and keep
writing letters back home. Just before he writes
“The Spirit of the Laws”. This is the man who THE
definitive book on the separation of powers in a democracy. Which we hope we will
continue to have in our… democracy. So, I began to place works such as
Montesquieu’s or” Persian Letters” or Goethe’s “West-ostlicher Divan”
or even books like Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. I began asking why would Nietzsche
call one of his most critical books “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”? Why not “Thus Spoke Christ or
Moses or Mohamad” or whoever? This did not quite fit with Edward
Said’s notion of Orientalism, namely production and knowledge
in the service of Colonial power. These books in fact,
would definitive to social and intellectual movements
in Europe and by extension through the extension of romanticism
into American transcendentalism. They became definitive to the point that Emerson thought he was
the reincarnation of Saadi. And so, I always say when
they ask Martin Luther King who he was influenced by? It’s by Gandhi. Gandhi said I was influenced
by Thoreau and Thoreau said I was
influenced by Saadi. Those I propose the question of
boundaries and boarders and East and West and North and South,
such historical facts, in fact, transcend these fictive frontiers. Here I – what became important
to me is the formation of what the great German
Sociologist, Philosopher, Habermas calls the formation
of the bourgeois public sphere. Because it is not – this is a
period that Europe is emerging from its own post French Revolution
period and public sphere – public conversation, public
knowledge, public reason, a period of enlightenment, is
when they begin to pay attention to other cultures,
non-European cultures. This is a period that Goethe
thought of word literature or ideas in word history became important. So, the idea of the world or non-European cultures becomes
definitive in the formation of social, intellectual movements
in Europe and United States. As a result, I do kind of a canny that locates specific
references to things Persian. In painting for example, sun and
music, there are 100’s of operas from Handel’s Xerxes which you just
heard a little bit of right here, to many, many others in which the
period of the [inaudible] the figure of the Xerxes and Cyrus the Great,
etc., become very definitive. My argument is to cut to the chase,
that the metaphor or the trope of Persia predicated on
Biblical and classical antiquity, but extended into for
example, Matisse’s fascination with Persian carpet
and Persian painting. And how these paintings from
the design of Persian carpet to miniatures, exhibitions of
Persian miniatures in Paris that Matisse had seen, they begin
to be present and instrumental and at some point, even definitive
to the formation of the social, intellectual and artistic movements
within the European public sphere. But here, as I said
here in the narrative, is only half of the story. My interest is not to say “Oh low
and behold, how lovely is that. Isn’t that cute that the
Iranian’s had an influence on Europe.”. The real
part of my argument is when that public sphere
becomes transnational. And by virtue of the global
operation of the capital, the taste and preferences and choices and
the status symbols of things that are happening in European
public sphere, they traveled. They traveled to the
rest of the world. So, I put it provocatively that wherever British Colonialism
goes so goes “Omar Khayyam”. Because it is initially the
translation of FitzGerald’s “Omar Khayyam”, of his journals
attention to “Omar Khayyam”, that turns “Omar Khayyam”
into a phenomenon in the English speaking world
and then eventually comes to the United States, goes to
the Arab world and to India and sub-continent and I underline
the paradox that for example, when you hear Umm Kulthum, for
example singing Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat, this is not directly from
Egypt and Iran are not that far, but it is in the aftermath of
the location of Omar Khayyam on a global public sphere
that now Egypt is receiving. The same is if you go to
Pakistan or Indian sub-continent and the attention of
[inaudible] to Rumi and Hafez. [Inaudible] discovers Rumi and Hafez in Germany while he’s doing his
Doctoral distortion in Germany. And then he goes back
to India/Pakistan and suddenly Rumi becomes so
definitive to his thinking that constitutes like Virgil in
his version of Devine Comedy. Here then I begin – I have a
more theoretical preoccupation which is how does on Iranian
context or the Persian world, or the Islamic world, or Third
world, whatever term we want, suddenly this reflection of
one particular attention, European attention
to things Iranian, has repercussions beyond the control
of the original European attention? So, I play with Habermas’
notion of public sphere and I call it para-public sphere. There is a para-public sphere
that for example, in say, Nietzsche’s attention to Hafez. Hafez becomes very definitive
to Nietzsche’s notion of the allusion pleasure. Then goes back to Iran and
gives rise to the poetry of contemporary masters like Shamlou
and Forough Farrokhzad and so forth. So, it is in a sense a kind
of intellectual historiography as my colleague Dr. Keshavarz
said, that does not remain constant within fictive frontiers of Colonial
and post-Colonial boundaries in order to understand
the social phenomenon. Pays much more attention to
historical realities of how for example, canonization
of literature happens. I have a whole chapter
on re-canonization of Persian literature in the
aftermath of European attention for example, to Ferdowsi. Yes, Ferdowsi was known,
celebrated and loved and even here in this very library, I’m told that there are manuscripts
of “Shahnameh” extent. But the rediscovery of Ferdowsi and
his epic, I propose is something that happens in the aftermath of the
European reception of “Shahnameh”, when Matthew Arnold
begins to impose his poem – famous poem on “Rustum and Sohrab”. When Jean Mohl prepares his
critical edition of the “Shahnameh”. When [inaudible] writes his
pioneering study of Shahnameh, or when E.G. Browne for
example, writes his four-volume “Literary History of Persia”. And who is next to E.G. Browne
when he’s writing his four volume on literary history of
Persia is Muhammad Qazvini, the doyen of Persian literary
of the early 20th Century and he goes back to Iran. He and his generation are
instrumental, that generation of the literary are instrumental
in defining and co-defining and canonizing the history
of Persian literature. So, if you remain confined, this is my argument –
if you remain confined within one particular
political border to try to understand literary
historiography, artistic historiography,
cultural historiography, you will have a distorted
conception of all of those things. Another example I give and then
I’ll stop hopefully we can have a conversation if you so wish,
is this is not the first time, 16th century Persian literature
has a former hospitable environment in the Mohall, India. And goes to Mohall, India and if you
want to study Persian literature, the studyography, poetry, anything of the 16th century,
you have to go to India. And in fact, literary
history of Persia, particular in the Safavid
period is very, very weak. I mean they are great in
architecture, and in art and in philosophy and
theology, and many other things. But the actual Persian
literature called literature, poetry in particular, if you want
to study it you have to go to India. So, as a result on the model of “The
World of Persian Literacy Humanism”, I offer not post-Colonial
national frame of reference for our understanding of
literature, art, music, so forth, but an imperial that is
the three pre-modern – as they call them – Muslim empires. The Mughal’s, the Safavid/Qarjar’s
and the Ottoman’s, ultimately yield to the incoming European
Imperial conquest. And the proverbial Persian poets
that have habitually in history, exists a royal court, say Ferdowsi
from the – in the Samlandic period. Exists the Samlandic court,
there’s another court, the Ghaznavid enters
the Ghaznavid courts. This is historically,
it’s happened many times. You exit one royal court, you
go to another royal court. In the 16th century when the
Safavid sultans are not interested in poetry, they find a
hospitable environment in India, so many of them go to India. But in the aftermath of the
collapse of these three empires, and the rise of the
European empires, the proverbial Persian poet exits
the Qarjar court, looks around, there is no other royal
court to go to. Suddenly they discover that there
are these Europeans, in English, French, German, Dutch
are interested in Persia in their own bourgeois public
sphere, not royal court. Thus, we have the emergence
of Iranian or Arab or Turkish bourgeois public sphere. In fact, Aref Ghazvini,
a very important poet of the Constitutional period, says
in so many words, that before – I am quoting him “Before I talked
about the vatan, which is homeland, one out of – nine out of ten
Iranians didn’t have any clue what is vatan.” And he’s right because he
invented it in his poetry. And homeland, I propose is
the functional equivalent of the bourgeois public sphere
because it is on public sphere that the generation of say, Mirza Saleh Sirazi they bring
the first printing machine on which they publish
the first newspaper. The simplification of
Persian prose takes place, if you read for example, about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the
first diplomat of Iran in England, he apologizes early
in his travel log. He says – you have to forgive
me, this is a very simple prose – because the florid language of
say the Rajar period and before that is now yielding to the
necessity of talking to a public that is emerging on the
space of the public sphere and that is the most revolutionary
phenomenon that the [inaudible] which continued to happen until
the Constitutional Revolution and many other revolutions. The young Turks revolutions, the
resistance to the British in India, etc. So, to make a long story short, I begin on the European public
sphere and the attention to these kinds of Persian material. And not all of it is high culture. I even, in fact, pay attention
to when high heels for example, when did people begin
to wear high heels? Was actually Persian Ambassadors
through European courts that had high heels and
then European monarchs began to imitate them and have high heels. It was at some point that
then this transformed into women wearing high
heels, rather than men. Appealing to their Socratic culture. And so, there many of these
sort of nitty gritty aspects of this dialectic in which I’m
interested, but not for the sums but for the carrier of more
important transformations of society, culture,
history, so forth. I hope some of what
I said made sense? I hope you get to read the book. And thank you for your patience
and I will be happy, with pleasure, with pleasure, with pleasure. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Thank you so much. I really look forward to reading
your book and I think a key point that you made is that that
one was in the details, so we have to really
focus on every detail. One thought that I had when
you addressed the question of canonization of some of
these texts and their appeal to the European intellectuals
and so on and there’s definitely
some truth to that. I think it’s a, you know,
you established that. But, what does that do for the
way these texts actually travel within their indigenous context
and you know, as well as concepts such as, mechanic, you
know, I can see it that in that particular specific
context, this is what happens. But does that really mean that
they have it in sub-Tehran, if not have an idea about the
homeland or wherever [inaudible]. So, you know, in other words,
what happens to that image?>>Hamid Dabashi: Very good. Yeah. Excellent question. The question is: Yes, let’s agree that there is a transnational
public sphere on which these words such as vatan, homeland, take shape or these texts are
re-conceptualized, re-canonized, but what about the indigenous
history and genealogy and exomologesis of
all of these works. Now, on the way I address
that, is that I don’t believe in one specific indigenous
environment with capital I, there are multiple
indigenous environments. And for historical
references, I opt to operate within a specific imperial contexts,
I operate within the Sadjuric Period and I look at Sadjuric
Period and say ok, in this period how does
canonization happen? What are the texts
that are important? Why is it that it takes from
the say, early 11th century, that Ferdowsi finishes “Shahnameh”,
until we get to the 13th century when Najmeddin Razi
writes [inaudible] that we have the first account
of who this Ferdowsi was. No, this doesn’t mean that for
two centuries people didn’t know who Ferdowsi was. There are extent manuscripts of
“Shahnameh” at the beginning of the “Shahnameh” in fact, we have the
rise of all of this fluoric aspect between the relationship between
Ferdowsi and [inaudible] etc. So, there are many localities, many… vernaculars. I mean I will not even call them
vernacular, because I don’t want to give primacy to the European
and then vernaculars to others. I just want to show multiple, layers
of history in each one of which – because of proclivities of one
empire as opposed to another. Or also the other thing which is
the subject of the previous book, as you remember, the internal
logic of the development of the literary tradition
in and of itself. Before we reach the European. So, your point is absolutely
well taken. But I place it in a
larger frame of reference. So, this period of 18th –
19th century European context, falls into a much larger context of not only the 1400 is an
Islamic history of Iran, but even pre-Islamic
period that gives us a much better perspective of how
canonization actually takes place. Please. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Excellent. Again, the question is: if
I believe as I indeed do, multiple persophilia’s not
just one mold of persophilia. Absolutely I do. Again, as the example that you gave
me that Edward Said Orientalism book “Orientalism” is mostly
in British and French. That’s to say much about either
German, except occasional references to Goethe, and also
Russian Orientalism. Which is equally if not, even
more important than European. And precisely the same way that the
German Orientalism has a particular genealogy and vintage, which is
different from Russian Orientalism, that especially in the aftermath
of the Russian Revolution as it decidedly Marxist historical
materialist disposition to it. The same is with, with
“Persophilia” of course. But as I said, I for my purpose, I
concentrate on those specific cases. That the picking of a Persian
element is instrumental in the formation of
progressive social movements. Such as, romanticism,
such as enlightenment, such as transcendentalism, such as groundbreaking philosophical
country centuries of [inaudible]. Such as modernist painting
etc. I deliberately in the introduction I talk about that these are the
true trends on which I stand. I don’t negate them. I’m not offering it
as a contrary reading, but those are the true
positions Schwab and Said, that are the predicates of
what I do and what I do is to go counterintuitively
not when the knowledge about the Orient is produced
in order to make it subjugate to [inaudible]; but in fact,
it has entirely, very – that is transcendental, because it
isn’t the bourgeois public sphere. However, in the aftermath of
the construction of Orientalism, within the bourgeois public sphere, what happens is it
becomes a status symbol. Whether it is enclosing or
as Annemarie Schimmel writes at some point that after
Goethe’s “West-ostlicher Divan”, suddenly there were
scores of blue eyes and blond officers
appeared in Germany. So, this means that
bourgeois consciousness, bourgeois public sphere,
bourgeois self-awareness, is beginning to assert itself
on public sphere in terms that it is borrowing from
and it’s not just Iran. It is India, it is the Arab world. It is all over the place. So, it is the particular composition
of the bourgeois consciousness that I’m interested in this period. And then my argument
following Habermas, is that this bourgeois
consciousness doesn’t stand, in fact more on Nancy
Fraser’s take on Habermas that this public sphere
becomes transnational. That I follow it back into other
parts of the world which then comes to the sort of re-canonization
of the – of text. I mean you can do that
with [inaudible], you can do it with many
number of other figures. That yes, they were known and
loved and celebrated and subject of biographical dictionaries and all
of that but there is a new gestation that now happens by virtue of
transnational imperialism predicated on transnational bourgeois
public sphere, that I think needs documentation. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Exactly. I would only add to what
you – the question is: how do I place this particular
work next to my other works that are very much in
conversation I would say with Edward Said, rather
than influence? I actually intellectually come
from a different genealogy. Edward Said as you know, was a
literary critic and very much came from a tradition of our [inaudible]. I’m a sociologist of
culture by training. So, when I read Edward
Said’s “Orientalism”, after having read Karl Mannheim
and Mark Schaller and so forth, it was not such a huge
sort of event for me. What was an event, what was
implicit in Edward Said’s work? Namely Michel Foucault’s
“Conception of Knowledge and Power”. That “Knowledge and Power” which
informs Said’s “Orientalism”, has remained very constant
in my work. So, I offer it as you write the
word that you use ‘complicating’, that’s a better word
rather than a disagreeing or taking it other places. I wanted to see this power
dynamic in multiple settings. This is actually a fucoidan, I
want to see how the power works in multiple settings,
not just in a knowledge that Colonial officer produces. I mean there are many of them,
in fact I talk about them in the context of the book. But here I don’t through
a Saidian fucoidan but through the deliberately
of Habermas’ notion of the bourgeois public sphere. Because that to me it is, because if in Said becomes Oriental
knowledge production and revolutionary knowledge
production. Here I’m after a more subtle
and perhaps insidious mode of knowledge production that is
evident of bourgeois public sphere. And Said didn’t see it because
his point was something else. His point was to document a
different set of trajectory. To me, this bourgeois
public sphere on a model and also remember this
is a very Marxists – can we say Marxists in
Library of Congress?>>Yes>>Hamid Dabashi: Is that ok? [ Inaudible ] [ Laughter ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Edward
Said was [chuckles], was he was a literary
historian not – this is a decidedly a class
formation bourgeois public sphere kind of a thing. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Very good. Very good, yeah. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Hamid Dabashi: Ok, let me repeat
right, the first question has to do with the word vatan. The way that Aref Ghazvini the
prominent [inaudible] period poet, uses it and its earlier gestation
that have indeed existed. First of all, vatan does
not appear in “Shahnameh”. But it doesn’t mean the
concept is not there. There are concepts of Iran. There are concepts of Kishva. There are concepts of
many similar concept. But not the word vatan. And my point is what is important about Aref Ghazvini is the
coincidence of the word vatan and the way that he uses it
and you’re absolutely right in the revolutionary
disposition of Tasnif which pre-dates Aref Ghazvini,
but he makes it popular. Simplification of music and etc.
What distinguishes it is the rise of the public sphere. Namely an “educated public”,
because it is a small public. But a century before exactly,
Aref Ghazvini uses this word. We have Mirza Saleh Sirazi,
bringing a printing machine with himself from London. He had a shawl, a paisley shawl
that – second hand – that he sold it and bought a second-hand printing
machine and brought to Iran with which he published
the first newspaper. There was no word for newspaper, so
he just called it kaqaz-i akhbar. This you know, word for– . And third essentially of
simplification of Persian prose through translations and
travel logs and so forth. This 100 years prepares
eventually the formation of what Habermas’ Public Sphere. Public sphere on which now,
when Aref uses the word vatan or when he uses the word vatan in
a Tastif, that he sings it publicly and people here it [inaudible]
etc., it resonates with a public that prior to this 100
years, active formation of the public sphere did not exist. You have different kinds
of social formations. But not the bourgeois
public sphere on this model of encountered with Europeans. The second question about
the medium of transmission. This is a very crucial point. How did these manifestations of
persophilia in Europe transferred? Traveled to Europe? Here my emphasis are more on
merchants, diplomats, travelers, ok. That people like [inaudible]
for example, goes to India and because he goes in India, plus
the fact that just before him, his friends buddy, his
buddy that had knew him, [inaudible] said you should stay. Goes from Iran to India in fact we
have a space, a geographical space of in the Persian, which is far
more accurate geographical territory rather than India and
Iran at the time. So, these and an example of
young scholars at the time like Muhammad Qazvini who
is actually is instrumental in the writing of the four
volumes of E.G. Browne. And then many of these travelers,
if you look at Ilci’s travel log, if you look at many others you
see how this particular attention to the Iranian culture,
literature, sometimes sarcastically, sometimes approvingly,
sometimes they’re just stunned “Why are Europeans
paying attention to this?” begins to be translated
back into Iranian context. Or, Islamic context at large. You’re right that there is sometimes
– if you look at the American – American Embassy etc., is
a very new gestation, ok. And we have to make a distinction
between European Orientalism and American area
studies/Orientalism is a whole different genealogy of it. Which I address in a different book. In the – in that context what
is important – the distinction between Persia and say India
or the Arab world is that idea of Persia was known to the
European from classical antiquity. And when Hagel is writing
his “Philosophy of History”, you remember, if you look at the
tautology of Hagel’s “Philosophy of History”, he considers
Egypt and India he dismisses. He cites India and
Egypt, but he dismisses where the Geist is not present yet. Geist becomes Geist, Farrago,
in Persia and from Persia goes to the Roman Empire and goes to
Germany, just the neighborhood of Berlin where he lived. So, that’s as I emphasized
in the book, that familiarity with the thing called Persia
from the Book of Esther to Xerxes’ Persia, is a very
important factor in how in 18th and 19th century Persia,
Persia begins – starts to be re-conceptualized. [ Inaudible ]>>Hirad Dinavari: We have
a wonderful series of books as Fatemeh and Joan explained. Thank you very much.>>Hamid Dabashi: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.>>Hirad Dinavari: For coming. For joining us. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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