INAF-421 Religion and Modern Politics of Iran
Fall for 2010-2011
In 1979, a broad-based revolution led by the Ayatullah Rouhullah Khomeini toppled the regime of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi thus ending a 2,500-year tradition of monarchy in Iran. The forces that contributed to this momentous event adhered to different political ideologies and belonged to different segments of the Iranian society. They also had widely divergent visions for a post-revolutionary Iran.
However, in the end, Islamic forces prevailed and established an Islamic republic, marking the beginning of a fundamental alteration of Iran’s social, political and cultural make-up in the hopes of creating a utopian Islamic society. They also took it upon themselves to fill the role of champions of the rights of Muslims and all other “opppressed” peoples, at a great cost to Iran. The remnants of this mindset continue to influence Iran’s external behavior and the character of its relations with other major powers.
In the nearly three decades since the revolution, the Islamic republic has had to abandon many of its earlier objectives because of internal opposition and external events, notably the eight year war with Iraq in the eighties and pressures exerted by the great powers.
Iranian nationalism and culture have proven stronger than the regime had anticipated after the revolution, while the disappointment with the performance of the Islamic regime has undermined the regime’s ideology and to some extent the position of Islam. In a more positive vein, it has given rise to a new Islamic reformist discourse with a potential for reconciling Iranians’ desire for modernity with their attachment to their religious and cultural values.
Yet, Iran is not the absolute failure and the cultural wasteland at times portrayed by the international press and media. Rather, it is a country full of contradictions and conflicting intellectual activity of all sorts takes place.
This course will focus on the following themes: (1) the factors that contributed to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, including the role of Islam; (2) Iran’s evolution in the post-revolutionary era and the factors that influenced it; and (3) an assessment of the likely trends for Iran’s future direction and factors that are likely to affect various alternative scenarios.
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Fall '10: Hunter S (file download)
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