Fall 2020 - HIST 352 D100

Religion and Politics in Modern Iran (4)

Class Number: 4193

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Fri, 1:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2020
    Sat, 8:00–8:00 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    AR Rezamand
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history. Recommended: one of HIST 151, 249.



The intellectual and social history of greater Iran from the Safavids to the twentieth century. Emphasis will be on the relationship between religion and politics.


This course is a survey of the history of Iran from the fall of the Safavid Empire (1722) to Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005).  The focus of the course will be on social and intellectual history, especially the problematic relationship between religion and politics. First, we will situate Iran within a larger theoretical background: the understanding of Iraniyyat (the historical notion of Iranian identity); the ecological trilogy of city, country, and tribe and their sociologies. Second, we will approach the eighteenth century transition with the fall of the Safavid period and eventual rise of the Qajars. This approach entails an explanation of concepts and strategies of empire and its failure; state and sub-state formation; the articulation of ethnic and national identities; and especially the drawing of increasingly exclusive boundaries concerning the definition of Shi’i within an Iranian context. Third, we will focus on the modern period (19th and 20th centuries) and assess Iranian reactions to western imperialism, technicalism, and modernity under the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties.  How do we account for shifts in economic, coercive, and ideational power?  How are we to understand Iranian movements of reform, nationalism, constitutionalism, secularism, clericalism, and revolution?  What does the Iranian experience tell us of the nature of modernization, secularization and revolution theory?  What prompted the rise of political Islam in Iran and the 1979 Islamic Revolution? This discussion leads us into the practice of religion and politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Please note that this course will be run synchronously: Our weekly lectures and tutorials will take place in real time in the Black Collaborate Ultra section of Hist. 352’s CANVAS page. However, all lectures will be recorded for those unable to attend live lectures.


  • Paper Proposal 10%
  • Participation 10%
  • Term Paper 40%
  • Final Exam (take-home) 40%



Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 2018)

Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran, 2nd edition (Oneworld, 2014)

Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).