Sep 15, 2008

Iran: A People Interrupted

This book by Hamid Dabashi is a must read. Through a historical analysis of Iran from the 19th century to present day, Dabashi highlights his premise of an anticolonial modernity. This book was a breath of fresh air in so many regards. First, Dabashi's political historiography is multifaceted and takes into account movements within Iranian literature, cinema, art and so on. He brings Iranians to the core of their history as agents of change (resistance) both in terms of domestic tyranny (absolute monarchy or theocracy) and foreign intervention (colonialism and imperialism). Dabashi refuses to essentialize at any given point in his analysis (even rejects Spivak's notion of strategic essentialism), choosing to present an alternative, more complex (and ultimately politicized) historiography of Iran. One that rejects both the imperialist colonial discourse of "western emancipation" and Islamic theocracy, while seeing the interconnection between the two vis-a-vis European colonial modernity.

"Iranians (like the rest of the world) received the universal promises of Enlightenment modernity through the gun barrel of European colonialism...We became modernized and colonized at one and the same time. We cannot be modern without speaking through a colonized mind, and we have not learned how to decolonize our minds without abandoning what Jurgen Habermass still insists on calling "the unfinished" project of modernity...Without a systemic critique of modernity...we cannot achieve that radical decolonization of the mind." (Dabashi 46-47)

"We have become a nation not by virtue of European colonizing or Orientalists writing about us, but by virtue of resisting colonialism, talking back to senile Orientalists, reminding them of where we come from, striking back at the imperial hubris that has denied us agency. We are a nation by virtue of our collective will to resist power, and we are a modern nation by virtue of an anticolonial modernity that locates us in the defiant disposition of our current history." (Dabashi 25)

There is much more going on in this book than I have summarized here. If you have a chance, read it. This is a critical book not just with regards to the current situation in Iran, but also in terms of anti-colonial/imperialist historiographies, discourses and movements in other parts of the world.

4 Comments:

Blogger kompoStella said...

sounds interesting... might i suggest seeing Persepolis, if you haven't already? the graphic novel turned film taught me heaps on Iranian (feminist) history and then it's beautiful & funny too.

2:24 PM  
Blogger pomegranate queen said...

yes i have seen Persepolis. the graphic novels were great too, especially, Embroideries. I like her work. history of feminist and women's movements in Iran are so layered (as they are everywhere). Satrapi's perspective was unique and fresh (again, especially with Embroideries).

3:00 PM  
Anonymous apciv said...

I just finished Dabashi's history, and recently ran across a scathing discussion of Reading Lolita in Tehran he published in Al-Ahram that you might want to look at if you haven't already. see http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2006/797/special.htm
I wonder what he makes of Persepolis?

1:49 AM  
Blogger The Hand Of Fatima Design said...

met prof. dabashi at columbia in march when george galloway was speaking, he is awesome! he has been blacklisted by that pig allen dershowitz.

2:05 PM  

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