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Iran and the West: Deconstructing the Current Tension through Cultural Sensibilities

October 1

Iran and the West: Deconstructing the Current Tension through Cultural Sensibilities is a panel in Middle East Studies Association (MESA)

 Mr. Ali Sajjadi: Mr. Sajjadi is a historian and a 40-year journalism veteran of some of the most well-known and credible international media outlets covering Iran. He is a published author of three books on Iran. His latest book, The Untold History of the Nationalization of Oil in Iran, was published in 2020.  The title of Mr. Sajjadi’s talk is: Dispelling the Myth of Mossadegh and the US Coup against him:  

The facticity of history must go beyond one’s perspective or one’s ideological interest.  Historical claims must be verified or at least go through the falsification process—like any other scientific claim or statement. Without it, there are only narratives and counter narratives in dispute.  One of these historical facts that has gone unexamined has to do with US/Iran relations and the populist Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh. A panelist will present detailed research which dispels this myth about Dr. Mossadegh and the United States’ role in the coup d’état against him. He will further argue that US/Iran’s future relations partly depend on dispelling these types of myths.

Ms. Roya Hakkakian is a founding member of Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in the United States; she is also a published author and a poet. She is listed among the leading new voices in Persian poetry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Her essays and book reviews appear in English language publications like the New York Times, the Daily Beast / Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal and NPR’s All Things Considered. Her talk will explore the cultural and the artistic deconstruction of Iran’s approach to modernity and of individualism: In Search of “I”: The Quest for Selfhood in Modern Persian Poetry

From 1301, when Nima’s groundbreaking Afsaneh was first published, Persian poetry has transformed more in the interim one hundred years than it did in all the centuries that came before. Where form is concerned, a panelist will argue, contemporary Persian poetry does, indeed, manifest all the signs of a modernist literary evolution. But when it comes to the most essential themes of modernism—namely the unabashed presence of self at the heart of the poem—the same poetry, especially in comparison to its bold structural innovations, lags woefully behind. The Iranian poetic self has yet to demand and appropriate its overdue literary space. This inchoate and incomplete presence of a literary self-mirrors the unfinished struggle of Iranians for a democratic society – with individual rights and civil liberties as its corner stones.   

Dr. Aram Hessami is a professor of political science at Montgomery College in Rockville Maryland. He specializes in political theory and post-modern philosophy. Professor Hessami has numerous published articles ranging from topics such as Iran’s Nuclear Discourse to Globalization and Social Change.  He co-edited Contemporary Social Discourse in Iran in 2010. He is currently working on a new book, entitled the Use and Abuse of Postmodern Philosophy. He is also an expert in Iran’s politics and has been appearing in various domestic and international media outlets for the past 19 years. He will be discussing: What Discourse or Which Language-Game Is Going to End the Impasse Between Iran and the West? 

There have been four prevalent discourses in Iran during the past 100 years: the traditional Nationalist-Religious Discourse; the Western-Liberal Discourse; the Marxist-Leninist Discourse; and the Post-Modern Discourse. A panelist will argue that the narrative of choice by the current regime in Iran is to use the postmodern discourse to combat Western-liberalism and, as soon as that is accomplished, revert back to the traditionalist-nationalist discourse. The appetite of the younger generation, however, is for liberalism, either Western style or more of an indigenous or native version of it. The dilemma for the West is how to navigate among these various “language games” which represent various stakeholders and adjust to them accordingly.

This coming March will mark the turn of the century to the year 1400 on the Iranian calendar.  During the past century, Iran’s encounter with modernity, post-modernity and globalization have posed new challenges domestically for the people and the government and internationally for the region and the West. Our dynamic panel will discuss those historical-cultural topics or trends and will relate them to these challenges with the hope of shedding light on the way forward.


October 1