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Iran: A People Interrupted  
Author Hamid Dabashi
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Cultural, Political and Social History
Publisher The New Press
Publication date 2007
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 336
ISBN 978-1-59558-059-7
OCLC Number 70107077
Dewey Decimal 955.05 22
LC Classification DS316.3 .D33 2007

Iran: A People Interrupted is a history book written by Hamid Dabashi, the noted scholar of Iran and Islam at Columbia University. The book was published in 2007 by The New Press and is a concise one-volume analysis of Iranian history--from the nineteenth century up until today. It describes key historical events in Iran--Iranian cultural trends, and political developments, up to the collapse of the Iranian reform movement in 2005 and the resumed hostilities with the Bush Administration over the nuclear issue and the war on terror.[1]. The outline of these historical details is the premise of Dabashi's theory of anticolonial modernity.

Dabashi tells the story of Iran through a "lens of a worldly cosmopolitanism" where he pays close attention to the multifaceted emancipatory movements the country has witnessed--among others through its literature, art, cinema, and feminism etc. Dabashi's method of historiography could be said to be radical and the book is written in a highly ambitious and provocative literary narrative. His hypothesis is that Iran must be understood as a place of defiance against both domestic tyranny (which he defines as absolute monarchy or theocracy but nonetheless patriarchal) and foreign intervention (colonialism and imperialism).

Among its many topics, the book features lucid discussions of the new and combative presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his current showdown with the United States, as well as the rise of Iran as a major regional power in the Middle East, the Salman Rushdie Affair, the Iran–Iraq War, the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. hostage crisis of 1979, the role of Iran during the Cold War, the Pahlavi dynasty, the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the end of the Qajar dynasty.

Iran: A People Interrupted will be available in alternative formats such as online download, in its entirety or in chapters, audio and large-print versions through The Caravan Project [2].

Contents

Introduction

Chapter One: On Nations without Borders

Chapter Two: The Dawn of Colonial Modernity

Chapter Three: A Constitutional Revolution

Chapter Four: The Pahlavis

Chapter Five: An Islamic Revolution

Chapter Six: To Reconstruct and Reform

Chapter Seven: The End of Islamic Ideology

Postscript

Notes

Index

Reviews

Susan Buck-Morss of Cornell University writes that "the book [Iran: A People Interrupted] cuts through the myths, past and present, that Americans have been told about Iran. It is a wealth of information, presenting Iran's history through the lens of its literary cosmopolitanism, and interpreting recent politics in the broader context of postcolonial resistance. More than a monograph, it contributes to global knowledge, exemplary of a new Leftist discourse that is undogmatic and non-sectarian. The style is open and intimate. You will know when you read this book that you are with a humanist who deeply loves his country, and invites you to feel very much at home." [3]

Mahmood Mamdani states that “Hamid Dabashi provides a lucid narrative of the last two hundred years of Iranian history around the compelling argument that contemporary Iran needs to be understood as the site of an ongoing contest between two contrasting visions of modernity, one colonial, the other anticolonial.”

Hannan Hever of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem writes that Dabashi's book is an "brilliant analysis of the Iranian state of mind…Dabashi insists on a nuanced reading of the complexities of the Iranian social fabric.”

Publishers Weekly states that "Dabashi focuses on the last 200 years of Iranian history, through the lens of a worldly cosmopolitan. He rejects the familiar dichotomy between the "traditional" and the "modern" in Iran....Instead, Dabashi [hypothesizes] the notion of an "anticolonial modernity," predicated on Iranians' struggles against "domestic tyranny" and "against the colonial robbery of the moral and material foundations of [their] historical agency."...[The book] is peppered by delightful vignettes from his Iranian youth".[4]

Kirkus Reviews review of the book states that, "set aside the question of whether Iran is part of an axis of evil. Ask instead: What is Iran? Iranians, Dabashi...writes, "have a sense of impermanence about Iran as a nation, a people, a place." The country is a mix of cultures and religions and geographies, in some ways wholly modern, as with its film industry, while in others drifting toward medievalism. It is also a colonial victim, by Dabashi's account, of foreign adventurers and plunderers and even today threatened by "a predatory empire" served by the likes of Kenneth Pollack, who, having made a case for invading Iraq, now counsels the same for Iran...Not that Dabashi likes the mullahs or the Pahlavis; it is just, he explains, that he wishes the Iranian people to be conceived as a complex body capable of resisting oppression, whether colonial or internal. Iran served as an important launching point for America's projection of military power into Asia during the Vietnam era; it is strategically important now, but for ends that are just as wrong, so Dabashi suggests. While making these arguments, he provides illuminating glimpses...[for] many nonspecialist readers, such as the constitutional crisis that accompanied the Iran-Contra affair in Tehran as well as Washington. When that crisis came, the Ayatollah Khomeini needed to alter the rules of succession so that a low-ranking cleric could become his successor, and to do this he needed a smoke screen, which is where the fatwa against Salman Rushdie comes in. Today's leadership, Dabashi closes, flirts with fascism and seeks smoke screens of its own. But, he insists, Iran is a democracy all the same, even if a flawed one. An eye-opening...consideration of a nation in need of understanding." [5]

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