Friday, September 14, 2007

Modernism and Post-Modernism in Iran and Its Diaspora

My Persian teacher says that, back when he was still an old-fashioned leftist, he attended a big conference of Iranian diaspora leftists in Germany, where he proceeded to propose that they collectively translate the latest works of Marxists such as Terry Eagleton into Persian and publish them in Iran. His proposal was immediately dismissed by those who said, "But Eagleton is a pomo, not a Marxist!" (Many of them refused to publish anything in Iran anyway, on the grounds that doing so would legitimate the Islamic Republic.)

Thus in Iran post-modernism largely remains a province of the philosophical establishment of the Islamic Republic, whose diasporic oppositions are dominated by dogmatic secularist modernists, liberal or Marxist or royalist, who often conflate modernization, secularization, and Westernization as if they were inseparable (and a number of them add economic liberalization to this package).

Marxian post-modernists, such as Antonio Negri, who visit Iran and opposition intellectuals in Iran, who are largely liberal modernists, also end up talking at cross purposes:
Two hundred people, including families, journalists and students, arrived for the first day under the banner 'Spinoza and Democracy'. While Iranian speakers (Ramin Jahanbegloo, Morteza Qassempour) presented the case for Spinoza as an eminently liberal and secular or even ecological thinker, pointing to a progressivist understanding of politics, Negri talked instead of the need to read Spinoza as a thinker of 'absolute democracy' whose critique of the theological-political apparatus is tantamount to a destruction of all transcendence and hierarchy. (Nina Power, Persian Empire: Antonio Negri in Iran," Radical Philosophy 130, March/April 2005)
See, also, Morad Farhadpour, "Negri's Visit and Other Disappointments," Melancholic Science, 1 February 2005.

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