Intellectuals and the State in Iran Politics, Discourse, and the Dilemma of Authenticity by Negin Nabavi (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003. 221 pages.)

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Alireza Asgharzadeh

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Abstract

Negin Nabavi’s Intellectuals and the State in Iran comes at a time when a
process of soul-searching by some Iranian intellectuals that started immediately after the triumph of Islamic revolution has now faded away, without
yielding any satisfactory results. This process was inspired by the question:
What role did the (secular left-leaning) intellectuals play in the revolution’s
triumph, which culminated in an Islamic state inherently opposed to the
activities of these same intellectuals? This important topic, of course, gives
rise to the familiar question of “What is meant by an intellectual?” which
Nabavi addresses in the book’s first part. Having given a historical perspective
on the development and evolution of intellectualism in Iran, she concludes
that a distinguishing character of the Iranian intellectual was “the
intellectual’s task to take a stance and engage with issues in society” (p. 3);
where “dissent” was “a necessary component in the career of any Iranian
intellectual” (p. 18).
In part two, Nabavi discusses the processes that led to the “radicalization
of the Iranian intellectual.” Here she explores the emergence of what she
calls “the Third-Worldist intellectual” and the cooptation of a great number
of intellectuals by the Pahlavi regime . According to her, during this period
(1963-70) “the notions of the ‘native’ and the ‘authentic’ became so pervasive
that even the establishment could not remain impervious to them” (p.
106). The epilogue briefly touches upon the relationships between intellectuals
and the revolution, where the author concludes that the intellectuals
“lost out in the year that followed the revolution” (p. 149) ...

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