2018 Mirhady Endowed Lecture: Ali Mirsepassi: The Imaginary Invention of a Nation: Iran in the 1930s and 1980s

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 7:00 PM


This talk will discuss upon a specific “imaginary” shift in thinking about Iran as a “modern” nation.  I will focus on a scholarly debate concerning the legacy of the French philosopher, Henry Bergson, to better reflect upon the place of Persian Erfan, and Islamic mysticism, in the making of modern Iran throughout the 1930s. I will also discuss a public “ideological debate,” in 1980, on the manner of “reconciling” Islamic “spiritual” tradition with modern secular ideologies, in Iran’s post-Revolutionary period.

I will argue that a clear shift occurred, from imagining Iran as a modern and cosmopolitan nation, in the post-Mashruteh period, to a new national social imaginary, defined by religious identity and “national” tradition.  This shift created a nationally unifying narrative, shared by a substantial majority of Iranians, across political, cultural, and ideological divides, as well as multiple sensibilities.  These included secular and religious oppositional currents, and the ruling elites themselves.