Iran: A People Interrupted

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Praised by leading academics in the field as "extraordinary," "a brilliant analysis," "fresh, provocative and iconoclastic," Iran: A People Interrupted has distinguished itself as a major work that has single-handedly effected a revolution in the field of Iranian studies.

In this provocative and unprecedented book, available for the first time in an affordable paperback edition, Hamid Dabashi—the internationally renowned cultural critic and scholar of Iranian history and Islamic culture—traces the story of Iran over the past two centuries with unparalleled analysis of the key events, cultural trends, and political developments leading up to the collapse of the reform movement and the emergence of the new and combative presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Written in the author’s characteristically lively and combative prose, Iran combines "delightful vignettes" (Publishers Weekly) from Dabashi’s Iranian childhood and sharp, insightful readings of its contemporary history. In an era of escalating tensions in the Middle East, his defiant moral voice and eloquent account of a national struggle for freedom and democracy against the overwhelming backdrop of U.S. military hegemony fills a crucial gap in our understanding of this country.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Declaring at the outset that he has an "ax to grind," Columbia University professor 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, arguing that it's at best ill-conceived and at worst a tool of European/American colonialism. Instead, Dabashi suggests the notion of an "anticolonial modernity," predicated on Iranians' struggles "against the colonial robbery of the moral and material foundations of [their] historical agency." While he raises many worthy questions, Dabashi's thesis is weakened by a lack of nuance. He also exhibits many of the flaws he decries, establishing, for instance, his own dichotomies ("for us the world was squarely divided into two opposing parts: those who ruled it and those who resisted this tyranny") and using a historical terminology to dismiss people, ideas or national projects with which he disagrees (e.g., equating Iran's Islamic Republic with America's "Christian empire"). Peppered alternately with delightful vignettes from his Iranian youth and dense academic-speak, the result is a book that may please those who agree with its author, but is unlikely to win over the uninitiated. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Set aside the question of whether Iran is part of an axis of evil. Ask instead: What is Iran?Iranians, Dabashi (Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature/Columbia Univ.) 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; and of Azar Nafisi, whose bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran Dabashi seems to consider a near-treasonous document in the service of vampires. 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 into episodes that will be familiar at least in part to 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 SalmanRushdie 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, if partial, consideration of a nation in need of understanding.
From the Publisher

"A lucid narrative of the last two hundred years of Iranian history." —Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University

"A brilliant scholarly analysis of the Iranian state of mind." —Hannah Hever, Hebrew University in Jerusalem

"An eye-opening consideration of a nation in need of understanding." —Kirkus Reviews

"Spectacular, important, and incisive . . . a crucial book for our times." —Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College

"Open and intimate . . . the book cuts through the myths, past and present, that Americans have been told about Iran." —Susan Buck-Morss, Cornell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595583338
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 5/31/2008
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 411,067
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of highly acclaimed scholarly books and articles on Iran, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and philosophy of arts. Among the leading U.S. dissidents and a frequent lecturer around the globe, he lives in New York.
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