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Hamid Dabashi


Iran: A People Interrupted

By Hamid Dabashi

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Nationalist Poet, Aref Qazvini (1882-1934)


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“I write this book to persuade people to discard the clichéd categorization of Iran as a country caught between a belligerent tradition and an alien modernity and to adopt a more historically nuanced, culturally multifaceted, and materially grounded reading of Iran.”

— Hamid Dabashi

Iran: A People Interrupted is a concise account of Iranian history from the early nineteenth century up until current day Iran and the predicaments of an Islamic Republic. The book describes key historical events in Iran, its cultural trends and political developments, up to the collapse of the Reform Movement in 2005 and the resumed hostilities between the Islamic Republic and the Bush Administration over the nuclear issue and the war on terror. The outline of these historical details is the premise of Hamid Dabashi’s theory of “anticolonial modernity”.

Dabashi tells the story of Iran through a detailed account of the cosmopolitan culture of a society normatively founded on its long anticolonial struggles. Paying close attention to the multifaceted emancipatory movements of Iran — among them literature, poetry, music, art, cinema, all underwritten with a sustained concern with the Iranian women’s movement, Dabashi’s historiography is a radical departure from the existing narratives of modern Iranian history. Written in a highly ambitious literary narrative, Iran: A People Interrupted is a daring inroad into a provocative mode of historiography that combines critical narratives, detailed pauses on crucial events, and expansive theoretical speculations, all punctuated with autobiographical implosions of his overriding narrative.

Dabashi’s underlying hypothesis is that as a nation-state Iran must be understood as a site of defiance against both domestic tyranny (embracing both an authoritarian monarchy and a totalitarian theocracy) and foreign intervention (ranging from the height of European colonialism down to the rise of American imperialism). Predicated on this premise, Dabashi’s theory of anticolonial modernity puts forward a radically different manner of looking at the history and trajectory of European colonial modernity around the globe.

Among its many topics, the book features 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 tyrannical regime of the Pahlavis, the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, the end of the Qajar dynasty, all the way back to the rise of colonial modernity in nineteenth century.


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

Iran: A People Interrupted will soon be available through The Caravan Project in alternative formats, such as online downloading of the book, in its entirety or in chapters, audio CD and large-print versions.

Advance Praise for Iran: A People Interrupted

“[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 post-colonial 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.”
—Susan Buck-Morss, Cornell University

“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.”
—Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University

“Hamid Dabashi’s Iran is a spectacular, important, and incisive discussion of today’s ‘real’ Iran—its complexity, its elusiveness, its modernity, its struggle with its complex culture and history. The Iran that the Bush administration promotes as the axis of evil is nowhere to be found here. This is a crucial book for our times. I loved reading it for its passion and extraordinary vision. It is urgent that each of us read this book to give us the knowledge and commitment to stand against war and build the possibilities for peace and global justice.”
—Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College

“[Dabashi’s book is a] brilliant analysis of the Iranian state of mind…Dabashi insists on a nuanced reading of the complexities of the Iranian social fabric.”
—Hannan Hever, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“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.”
—Publishers Weekly

“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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Hamid Dabashi’s previous work

Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema offers a remarkable overview of Iranian cinema and the directors who have transformed the shape of Iranian culture in modern history. With his superb authority on the social and political history of the region, Dabashi provides a tour de force of the artistic developments in Iran over the past half a century and thus beautifully lays out the alluring dynamic between Iranian art and politics. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of this marvelous book is Dabashi’s refusal to limit the importance of Iranian cinema to its regional domain, as he consistently cultivates its global prominence.”
—Shirin Neshat, film & video artist

“For over a decade Hamid Dabashi’s revelations have been as instrumental in the fashioning of my own cinema as Naderi, Kiarostami, Bresson, or Rossellini. Dabashi brilliantly weaves together Iranian cinema, literature, history, philosophy, and politics in a national and global setting, and lovingly and masterfully guides his readers to cultural and aesthetic insights. If Iranian cinema brought the world a “poetic” vision of modern Iran, Dabashi has done no less in this piercing analysis.”
—Ramin Bahrani, filmmaker

“The grand clash of civilizations and ideologies [over Islam and the West] will increasingly take place in the West, with such writers and intellectuals as Dabashi.”
—The Guardian

“Sparkles with verve and a sometimes punishing wit…Encyclopedic in its scope, informal in tone, shrewd in its interpretation, indispensable…Dabashi is the perfect guide.”
—Edward W. Said

“Lively and well written…Objective and empathetic…unlike many others on contemporary Iran”.
—Ervand Abrahamian, International Journal of Middle East Studies

“I urge people to get a hold of this book…it provides its readers with a higher level of understanding than any hundred hours logged on”
—Carlo McCormick, Bookforum

“There are few better places to begin than with Dabashi’s subtle and vividly presented wealth…on Iran.”
Said Amir Arjomand, State University of New York, Stony Brook

“Original, creative and insightful…significant…utilizing a new approach which yields fresh and valuable perspectives.”
—Professor John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

“A rare cultural critic.”
Mohsen Makhmalbaf

“Fresh, provocative and iconoclastic.”
Ian Richard Netton, University of Leeds

“Extraordinary…Dabashi serve[s] up a theoretical and empirical treat that should attract attention…far beyond the shores of Iran, the Middle East, or even the Islamic world.”
—Daniel Brumberg, Georgetown University

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Array ( [2] => Array ( [title] => [text] => "A leading cultural observer." Washington Post "Our most prominent intellectual." Shirin Neshat "Renowned Columbia University scholar on Iranian culture." Boston Globe "Spectacular, important, and incisive. Dabashi's work is crucial for our times." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi lovingly writes about the history of Iran that teaches us how to understand a people overshadowed by the grand narratives of political (mis)representation." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"You are with a humanist who deeply loves his country, and invites you to feel very much at home." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Superb authority... Dabashi provides a tour de force on Iranian art, politics and culture." Shirin Neshat "Great erudition and imagination... bringing out rich aspects of Iranian culture that are little known or not recognized." Vanessa Martin, Royal Holloway
University of London
"Hamid Dabashi, is one of the most significant intellectual voices outside of Iran since the Islamic revolution." Shirin Neshat "A leading light in Iranian studies." The Chronicle of Higher Education "Cuts through the myths, past and present, that Americans have been told about Iran... presenting Iran's history through the lens of its literary cosmopolitanism." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Magisterial." Houchang Chehabi
Boston University
"An important man in New York." Sir Ridley Scott "Much-needed in our troubled times." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"Exemplary of a new Leftist discourse that is undogmatic and non-sectarian... open and intimate." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Hamid Dabashi beautifully lays out the alluring dynamic between Iranian art and politics." Shirin Neshat "A rare cultural critic." Mohsen Makhmalbaf "Dabashi's passion and extraordinary vision, gives us the knowledge and commitment to stand against war and build the possibilities for peace and global justice." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi's piercing revelations have been as instrumental in fashioning my own films as have Scorsese, Rossellini and Bresson." Ramin Bahrani "Superb and brilliant." Bruce Lawrence
Duke University
"Fresh, provocative and iconoclastic." Ian Richard Netton
University of Leeds, UK
"Learned... sparkles with verve and a sometimes punishing wit. Hamid Dabashi is the perfect guide." Edward W. Said "There are few better places to begin than with Dabashi's subtle and vividly presented wealth on Iran." Said Amir Arjomand
SUNY, New York
"Objective and empathetic... unlike many others on contemporary Iran." Ervand Abrahamian
Baruch College, New York
"Enthusiastic... clear and accurate... impressive." Oliver Leaman
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
"Original, creative and insightful." John L. Esposito
Georgetown University
"Extraordinary." Daniel Brumberg
Georgetown University
"Dabashi has an astonishing ability to range over some of the most complex issues of modern intellectual life." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"If anyone can lay claim to Nima Yushij's statement that this world is his home, it is Hamid Dabashi. I want a very broad readership to know the quality of his writing and thinking, of his immense epistemic and historical scholarship." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Dabashi is learned, poetic, ranging from philosophy to film, every word written with a commitment to the possibility of a just world. I have worked with him in the past and will work with him again in the future." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi is one of the foremost exponent today of postcolonial critical theory, whose work deserves to be called post-colonial with all the multivalence of this description." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi's writings on Iranian culture and politics brilliantly re-imagine the rich heritage of a shared past and a conflicted present. His reflections on revolution and nationhood, poetry and cinema, philosophy and the sacred, are urgent, provocative, complex, and highly original." Timothy Mitchell
Columbia University
"Equally fluent in philosophical reasoning, literary interpretation, visual hermeneutics and writing with a rare combination of penetration and lyricism, Dabashi's work continues values of both modern critical theory and the highly sophisticated and subtle intellectual traditions of Iranian... reflection -- for both of which he is an wonderfully sympathetic reader." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi belongs to a marvelous tradition of poetic thinkers, whose deep insights are crafted in magnificent poetic prose." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"Dabashi provides his readers with the wine of literary pleasure along with rich food for thought." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"In Dabashi's work, post-coloniality does not mean a denial or denunciation of the modern European tradition of philosophy and social theory, but their effortless absorption into a larger, more complex reflection." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
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