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ASPS Virtual Event Series V: Nationalism in the Iranian World
April 29, 2021 - June 10, 2021
The Department of Iranian Studies (Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland) and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Eurasian Studies (Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland) organised a series of four open meetings entitled Nationalism in the Iranian World. The Association for the Study of Persianate Societies assumed patronage of the series, incorporating it into its international programme ASPS Virtual Event Series.
The series opened on 29.04.2021 with a lecture by Prof. Anna Krasnowolska (a retired lecturer of the DIS, JU), who pointed out that nationalism in itself is an interesting phenomenon, still analysed and described by Iranian (internal perspective) and Western (external perspective) researchers. In her presentation, she summarised the state of research, as well as the most important factors influencing the formation of contemporary Iranian nationalism. She drew on Braudelesque longue durée perspective, which made it possible to highlight what the speaker calls the Iranian cultural matrix. This matrix, which consists, among other things, of an awareness of the continuity of history, literature or language, as well as the continuity of political-administrative patterns, is responsible for shaping the Iranian identity in contrast to other ethnonyms (and other identities) found in the Middle East. As a specialist in Persian literature, Prof. A. Krasnowolska tried to show Iranian nationalism from a textological perspective, i.e. through the critical reading of manifestos and political programmes written by such Iranian intellectuals as Mirza Fathali Akhund-zade (1812-1878) or Mirza Aqa-khan Kermani (1853-1896).
The second meeting on 13.05.2021 was hosted by Prof. Marcin Rzepka (Institute of Religious Studies, JU), who continued the topic started two weeks earlier, analysing it through the prism of one of the three recognised religious minorities, i.e. the Eastern rite Christians, mainly Assyrians and Chaldeans. The formula he proposed combined religious studies and a sociological perspective. The speaker touched upon the processes taking place at the end of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, and the final part of the lecture was devoted to assessing current nationalist tendencies, which have acquired a multi-vector dimension in the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the one hand, we should speak of an internal nationalism, directed inwards, as it binds the community of believers together. On the other hand, there is external nationalism, directed towards the state, which makes Eastern rite Christians living on its territory practically legitimate citizens and members of the Iranian nation.
The third of the meetings on 27.05.2021 was conducted by Prof. Joanna Bocheńska (DIS, UJ), who is an internationally recognised expert on Kurdish culture. The historical perspective she proposed allowed for a more complete outline of the problem which, contrary to appearances, is not analogous in the individual regions of Kurdistan. The different socio-political conditions in Iraq, Iran, Syria or Turkey mean that the sense of belonging to one Kurdish nation is sometimes interpreted and developed differently. The complexity of the processes shaping Kurdish identity is also reflected in the complexity of Kurdish nationalism. Although the historical perspective applied by the speaker might seem to be too limited, complemented by the literary studies perspective it enabled a more precise approach to the problem which interested the audience.
The fourth and final meeting on 10.06.2021 was chaired by Mateusz M.P. Kłagisz Ph.D. (DIS, UJ), who, following the example of Prof. A. Krasnowolska and Prof. J. Bocheńska, decided to present the problem of Afghan nationalism primarily from a historical perspective, supplementing his lecture with tangible manifestations of the top-down modelled and moderated phenomenon, noticeable in the Afghan socio-cultural space. What distinguished the lecture by M.M.P. Kłagisz from the three previous ones was the very problem of the presence and/or absence of nationalism encompassing the entire multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Afghan society. Hence, the speaker started from the key question: ‘Can we speak of one nation and one nationalism in contemporary Afghanistan?’. As he tried to show, what is most often perceived as Afghan (or: pan-Afghan) nationalism is in fact some kind of realization of Pashtun nationalism, on the verge of ethnocentrism.
The primary objective of the meetings was to reach the widest possible audience. Hence, each of the meetings was organised in an on-line version. All of them were extremely popular, thus the goal formulated in this way should be considered achieved. A measurable effect of all the projects will be the currently prepared book publication, comprising extended lectures together with recorded discussions. The organisers are convinced that such a monograph will be useful not only to students of oriental studies, but also to sociologists.