Islam, Iran and the West
PS 149S firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of this course is to inquire into the nature of the long and complicated relationship between Iran, Islam and the West. It will underscore the fact that there have been many “Islams,” “Irans” and many “Wests” and the nature of their relationship have sharply varied through the years. We will discuss sectarian developments within Islam, with special emphasis on Iran.
Iran’s encounter with the West began long before Islam and in the first couple of weeks; we will briefly cover this period—beginning with Herodotus and his version of the relationship. In the first two decades of Islam’s advent in Iran, the main issue was whether Iranians will accept Islam, and how that acceptance will change their intellectual and political disposition towards the West. Since then, Iran, according to many scholars, has had a bifurcated identity, partially Islamic, partially Zoroastrian. Unpacking the complexities of this bifurcation and understanding its impact on Iran’s relationship to the West is one of the primary goals of the class. In the Middle Ages, Iran’s relationship with Islam and the West revolved around the question of power and domination. Since the Renaissance, accepting or rejecting modernity (with its rationalism, secularism and individualism) has been at the core of tensions in Iran’s relationship with the West. Since nineteenth century, the question of colonialism and an increasingly acrimonious politics of identity has clouded the horizon even more.
Students are asked to read the designated parts of the following:
Bruce Lawrence, The Qur’an: A Biography (New York, 2006), ISBN: 9780802143440
Farhad Daftarty, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis (London, 1995), ISBN 979-1850439509
Lloyd Ridgeon, Religion and Politics in Modern Iran (New York, 2004), ISBN, 1-84511-072-2
Khomeini, Ruhollah, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini, Translated by Hamed Algar (Berkeley, 1981) ISBN 0933782 03 9
Sayyid Qutb, Milstones (London, 2007), ISBN 978 0934905145
Abbas Milani, Lost Wisdom: Rethinking Modernity In Iran (Washington, 2001), ISBN 0934211-90-6
A few chapters from my books, Eminent Persians will be also required reading. Copies of the book are available at Green Library’s reserve desk.
Each student is asked to write a research paper. Students should turn by the third week of class, a proposal, describing their topic. The proposal should be no more than a couple of pages. To develop their ideas for the paper, students can consult with the Teaching Assistants or with me.
Aside from the paper and the proposal, each student is also asked to submit two reflection papers, of no more than two pages each, to the TA for their session. The short paper is no more than your reflection on the readings for that week. The schedule for these reflection papers will be determined and announced by the TAs.
Please note that up to thirty percent of your grade will be determined by the quality and quantity of your participation in the life of the class as well as the sessions with the TAs. The reflection papers will constitute about fifteen percent of the grade. The other part will be determined by the quality of the paper.
Papers are due on the last day of class. Late submissions of the paper, the proposal or the reflection paper will negatively impact the student’s grade.
Here are the general contours of the lectures and the reading assignments. The outline of each lecture, along with key concepts and characters will be made available to students in hand-outs for each class and on coursework. Please note that the lectures are not a reiteration or the material in the readings but instead will provide context and texture to those texts. In other words, attendance is not voluntary! We have arranged the readings in a way that students will have less required readings in the last couple of weeks.
Week One and Two: Iran, Islam and the West: Problems of Epistemology; Oriental and Occidental discourse: myth or reality; from Herodotus to Max Weber: on the differences between East and West; Iran’s early contacts with the West: Iran as the “Other;” Bible an Herodotus; questions of methodology: “Covering Islam and Iran” Orientalism, Nativism, and Orientalism in Reverse; Geertz and “thick description.” Nature of scholarship about Islam in the Muslim world; Socratic wonder, or colonial conquest? Dearth of scholarship on the West in Iran and Islam; Early years of Islam and the impact of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Hellenism on the development of Islamic thought; Augustine and the influences of Iranian ideas on Catholicism. Readings: “Zoroaster and the Ayatollahs,” (coursework and on my face-book site); Lost Wisdom, 9-50; Religion and Politics in Modern Iran, 1-99
Week Three and Four: Rise of Islam; life of Mohammad: the Historical and Hagiographical biographies; Mohammad, Qoran and Hadith; sources of Qoran and of Hadith; typology of hadiths; “problem of origins,” Principles of Islam; Sassanid Iran, Byzantine West and Islam; sects in Islam and their attitudes towards Hellenic culture: Mo’tazele and A’shari, Kalam and Philosophy and their attitude towards the West; sectarian developments in early Islam: Sunnis, Shiites, early Western attitudes towards “Mahomettans,” and the Crusades and the advent of Oriental Studies in the West; ran and Islam: the rise of Sufism; Sufism and their view of Tarigah, Hagigah, Sharia; Sufism and Christian mysticism and Kabala: confluence or conflict of ideas; spread of Islam through Sufi sects; views on politics and society; Sufism and Islamic orthodoxy; Readings: Qur’an: A Biography; (entire book); Religion and Politics, 99-163; Lost Wisdom, 51-100
Week Five: Ismailis, Assassins and the emerging role of Shiism, and Isamailis in the West; Assassins Legends (first half of book)
Week Six: Rise of Shiism in Iran: rise of Safavid dynasty and emergence of Shiism; Ejtehad in Shiism; rise of clerical hierarchy in Shiism; Majlesi and Shiite theology; messianic ideas in Shii thought; Zervan to Zaman; Shiism as Iranian nationalism; Iran and the Ottomans; Iran’s alliance with the West; Iran in Western Imagination: From Mandeville to Shakespeare; travel writings of British, French diplomats; rise of apocalyptic Islam; Readings, Lost Wisdom, 101-171; Milani, “An Evening in Support of Iranian Bahais,” (Coursework and my Facebook); Religion and Politics in Modern Iran, 163-279; Assassins Legends (Second half of the book)
Week Seven: Islam and the rise of Modernity: debates on the nature of modernity (tajadod) and Shiism’s compatibility with capitalism and democracy; century “Big Game” and Iran; Nasser-al-din Shah and journeys to the West; rise of Pan-Islamism; rise of Babi and Bahai faith: heresy, reformation or a new faith?; Naini and Nuri: the rise of “quietist” and “radical” Islam: Constitutionalism vs. Mashrua’ in 1905; Khomeini and Velayat-e Fagih, Readings: chapters on Khomeini, Shariati, Shariat-Madari, Kasravi, Kashani, Ale-Ahmad, and Khomeini in Eminent Persians; Islam and Revolution (first half)
Week Eight and Nine: Iranian and Muslim Intellectuals, Islam and the West; the debate on the nature of Islam and Modernity in Iran: Ale-Ahmad and a new narrative on Islam, Iran, and clergy; Fardid and Heidegger and rejection of modernity in Iran; reformist Shiite thinkers; Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Iran: Reading: Milestones, (first half):
Week Ten: Islam, Iran, and Modernity: Prospects for the future: Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish Model: rise of populist Messianism; and my “Pious Populism,” in Boston Review (available online and in Coursework); Milestones, Second half.
U.S. Relations with Iran Abbas Milani
PS 118 email@example.com
Autumn 2013 TA: Aubrey Blanche
Since World War Two, Iran’s relations with the United States have always been a key preoccupation of policy-makers and scholars. The Cold War began in Iran, and in the subsequent decades, Iran’s long borders with the Soviet Union, its vast oil reserves, its unique strategic importance in the Persian Gulf, and finally its special relationship with Israel made the country one of America’s most important allies in the world. After the fall of Communism, the nature of Iran’s geopolitical significance changed. The new Islamic government of Iran became a formidable foe of the US and remains one of the most intractable challenges faced by America. Iran’s nuclear program has also made the country a subject of intense international interest and concern. The purpose of this course is to delve into the past, present and future state of Iran’s troubled yet important relationship with the US.
Required readings include the two books listed below, the Class Reader, and selected chapters from my two-volume study of Iranian elite, called Eminent Persians. Copies of the book are available at Green Library’s Reserved Room. The Class Reader is composed primarily of original documents from the US and British archives (spanning the FDR years, America’s role in forcing Soviet occupying forces out of Iran in 1946, the US role in the 1953 coup that brought the shah back to power, America’s role in the days leading to the 1979 revolution in Iran, and several studies on Iran’s nuclear program). The archival material is important not just as a historic record but as a window to the complexities of the process of formulating policy.
A list of important archives and their email addresses will be provided in class and made available on coursework.
If you are trying to set up an appointment with me outside of office hours, please contact Ms. Pasang Sherpa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Iranian Studies Program organizes a series of talks each quarter. Attendance at those talks, particularly when relevant to the history of US-Iran relations, will be considered extra work for the class and considered in calculating your grade.
If in the course of the quarter, any new reading material is required, it will be made available to the students in class or through coursework.
Kenneth Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America , (Random House, 2004)
Abbas Milani, The Myth of Great Satan (Hoover Press, Stanford, 2010)
Each student will write a research paper and help prepare one policy memorandum. By the end of the second week of class, you will be required to submit a brief proposal stating the subject of your research paper to Aubrey Blanche. By then, you must also sign up for the subject of the memorandum you will prepare. It is recommended that join with other students as a team to prepare these memorandums. Using archival material, as well as any other data, information, or intelligence reports, you and your team will prepare an action memo to be presented during the session when students will be acting as members of the National Security Team. Threats and key policy decisions are to be the subjects of these reports. The time and subject of these reports are to be coordinated with Aubrey Blanche. Absences from class or any of the sessions will negatively impact your grade. Final papers are due on the last day of class. Your grade will be determined, in equal measure, by the quality of your paper, your presentation, and your contribution to the life of the class. (In other words, don’t miss class!)
Here is the general contour of the lectures and your required readings.
First Week: A theoretical and historical introduction: Why is Iran important, when did US-Iranian relations begin, why is the relationship important today, and what is the current state of theories that have tried conceptualizing the relationship? Client State, Dependence Economy; Iran as leader of resurgent radical Islam; Iran-US relations in its earliest period: The arrival of missionaries; early image of Americans; Americans during the Constitutional revolution. (Pollack, 1-67; Milani, 1-37;)
Second Week: US-Iran, 1914-1941; the rise of Reza shah and changes in US relations with Iran; World War Two and US-Iranian relations; America’s role in Iran during the war; the beginning of US-British tensions over Iran; the Hurley Project and the attempt to make a new foreign policy based on democracy. (Pollack, 72-100; Milani, 37-59; Eminent Persians, (on reserve in Green), Vol. 1, 37-55; 152-247; 311-350)
Third and Fourth Weeks: Iran and the Dawn of the Cold war: America and the saving of Azerbaijan; America and Iran’s burgeoning democracy. US and the Nationalizing of Iranian Oil: Prelude to the Coup of 1953. (Pollack, 100-216, Milani,1-53; Reader, Eminent Persians, 111-119; 311-342)
Fifth and Sixth Weeks: US and the Shah 1953-79; Years of consolidation; The Garanei coup and the alleged US role in it; Eisenhower Doctrine; the CENTO and its role; Kennedy and changing US policy in Iran; Iran’s growing independence, and the changing nature of relations: Oil, the Nixon Doctrine and the question of the Persian Gulf; the role of the US in solving the problem of Bahrain; US and the origins of Iran’s nuclear program; Iran-Israel-US and the Kurds of Iraq; Carter and the Iranian revolution. (Milani, 60-118; Pollack, 217-277; Course work: CIA Report on Operation Ajax, Eminent Persians, 430-450)
Seventh Week: US and the Islamic Revolution in Iran; the October surprise; the hostage crisis; origins of the Iran-Contra affair; US and Khomeini: Early contacts; US and the Provincial government in Iran. (Pollack, 217-277; Milani, ;119-136; Reader, 32-72; Eminent Persians, 350-359, 367-379)
Eighth Week: US-Iran, 1979-1992: US and the Iran-Iraq war; US, Saddam, and WMD in the war between Iran and Iraq; US naval war with Iran; (Pollack, 277-424; Reader, 72-267)
Ninth Week: US-Iran, 1992-2000: US role in the Iran Iraq war; Reagan policy towards Iran: Iran and the Gulf War; Clinton administration and the policy of Dual Containment; Iran and the Peace Process in Middle East; revival of Iran’s nuclear program. (Reader, 267-end)
Tenth Week: US-Iran, 2000 till today: US and Iran during the war on Afghanistan; US and Iran during the two wars against Iraq; Iran and the Iraqi insurgents; Ahmadinejad and US-Iran relations; the American presidential elections and US policy towards Iran.
Politics in Modern Iran Abbas Milani
PS 245R email@example.com
Modern Iran has been a smithy for a vast array of political movements, ideologies, and types of states. Movements including Nationalism, Constitutionalism, Marxism, Islamic Fundamentalism, Social Democracy, Islamic Liberalism, Authoritarian Modernization, Oriental Despotism, Authoritarianism, Islamic Theocracy, and Liberal Democracy have been tried. These varieties, often also found in the West, have appeared in Iran in their “local” iteration, shaped by dictates of history and geography, the curse and purse of oil, proximity to the once powerful Soviet Union, and finally by the influence of Islamic culture, particularly Shiism. The paradigmatic puzzle of modern Iranian politics has been the question of modernity: what is it, and it is desirable for Iran? The goal of this seminar is to begin discovering the complexities of Iranian society and politics and the nature of the discourse on modernity.
The students are asked to write a research paper, on a subject of their choice, but within the broad parameters of modern Iranian politics and culture. You are encouraged to use primary archival sources. Before commencing your work, you should submit to me before the end of the second week a brief, no more than two-page long, description of their paper before commencing their work. Each student will present to the seminar the results of their research. Each presentation is to last about twenty to thirty minutes, allowing time for questions and queries. The last four meetings will be given at least partially to these presentations. I will be passing out a sign-up sheet. Papers are not due when the presentation is made, but on the last day the class meets. The heaviest load of readings are assigned for the earlier part of the quarter, allowing you more time to concentrate on your research in the last three weeks.
Grades will be a function of the quality of the paper, the presentation and the quality of each student’s participation in the life of the seminar. In each meeting, students can expect to be asked to offer their critical summaries of parts of the readings assigned for that session. In other words, your presence is appreciated, your absence noticed, and how much of the readings you are doing is hard to miss and an important part of your grade.
- Milani, Abbas, The Shah (Palgrave, 2011)
- Milani, Abbas, Lost Wisdom (Mage, 2001)
- Said Amir Arjomand, After Khomeini (Oxford, 2009)
Aside from these required books, there is a reader composed mostly of archival material from the American and British archives, showing their respective embassy’s assessment of the domestic scene in Iran as well as a few articles. The 1979 revolution was a serious intelligence failure of American and British agencies and these documents offer some hint about how the failure took place. The documents are organized in chronological order and students are expected to prepare for each seminar by reading the relevant documents. I have indicated the relevant page numbers from the reader in each week’s assigned readings. There are also some required readings from my book, Eminent Persians (Syracuse University Press). The book is a heavy two-volume set, and thus I decided to spare you the agony of carrying them around. Copies of the book are available at the Reserve Desk of the Green Room. A few of my shorter articles will be also required reading and made available on Course Work.
First and Second Week: Introduction to Iran: A geopolitical and historical survey; Theories about modern Iranian politics: From Asiatic despotism and “sultanism” to a “Client” state and “divine” rule; the question of modernity and its implications in Iran; four narratives of modernity; The Constitutional Revolution: 1905-1907, origins of modern political ideas in Iran; the debate about Modernity: its sources, nature, desirability; The two narratives of the clergy in face of the Constitutional Revolution: Nouri, and Naini; Origins of the Social Democratic and Communist movement and their role in modern politics; the rise of the Babi movement and the emergence of the Bahai faith, the First World War and its impact on Iranian politics; 1917 revolution and its impact; the Gilan Soviet Republic; the curse and grace of oil: Impact of oil on internal politics of Iran; impact of Russian culture and politics on Iran’s intellectual development; Rise of Reza Shah. (Please read Eminent Persians, Vol. 1, “Purposes Mistook,” in Vol. one, and Caliban’s Curse, from Vol. Two, and sections on Foroughi, Ghavam-al Saltaneh, Hakimi, Aliasghar Hekmat, Taghizadeh, Shah, 1-88, and the Epilogue; Lost Wisdom, 9-83; Reader, 1-12)
Third and Fourth Week: Authoritarian modernization: 1925-1961: Nature of state, political parties, and elected institutions in the period; politics of Nomadic tribes; new role of women in Iranian society; Iranian army and Iranian politics; the democratic interlude; politics of oil; rise of Mossadeq and Iranian nationalism; rise of Pro-Soviet communist movement; Azerbaijan crisis; Mossadeq and the Nationalization movement; Ajax or national Resurrection; Qarani Affair. (Please read, in Eminent Persians,, sections on General Zahedi, Ardeshir Zahedi, Kashani, Qarani, Teymour Bakhtiyar, Roozbeh, Qashqai brothers, Hussein Ala; Shah, 89-219; Reader, 13-62; Lost Wisdom, 83-125)
Fifth Week: Authoritarian Modernization: 1961-1979; the White Revolution and changes in the social fabric of society; Iran’s “take-off” and the Shah’s eclectic paradigm of modernization; rise of Islamic radicalism; SOFA and its aftermath; Progressive Circle; Iran’s guided democracy, and one-party-system; roots of revolution. (Eminent Persians, sections on Ayatollah Khomeini, Alam, Amini, Nasiri, Sabeti, Sharif-Emami, Ayatollah Shariat Madari, Shariati, Ale-Ahmad, Fardid; Shah, 219-354; Lost Wisdom, 125-155; Reader, 63-201)
Sixth Week: The roots of the revolution; stages of revolution in Iran; political ideas of Ayatollah Khomeni; the structure of power in the new Islamic constitution. Politics during the early years of the revolution: competing discourses on legitimacy and the consequences of their struggle; Rafsanjani and the “Chinese Path,” Hostage crisis, war with Iraq, (Please read Shah, 354-430; After Khomeini,1-89; “Iran-Iraq War” and “Hostage Crisis” entries from Encyclopedia Iranica, )
Seventh and Eighth Week: Reform politics in Iran: Khatami presidency, 1997-2004); Recent trends and patterns; role of women in changing the Islamic Republic. The end of Reforms; Iran’s Nuclear Question? Prospects for the future: Democracy, civil society, and the role of Persian Diaspora: Recent trends and patterns; role of women in changing the Islamic Republic; After Khomeini, 90-216; Lost Wisdom, 139-177; Reader, 201-270. Student Presentations
Ninth Week: Reform politics and rise of Ahmadinejad; changing patters on power in the clerical structure; (Please read my articles on Coursework: “Pious Populism,” “Ahmadinejad and Ayatollahs,” “Has Iran found its Mandela,” “Desperate Dictators,” ). Student Presentations:
Tenth Week: The Future of politics in Iran; please read articles on Iran and Syria, No readings, only elegant and erudite writing—the kind regularly found amongst Stanford students. Student Presentations.