In Search of Caravans Lost . Iranian Intellectuals and Nationalist Discourse in the Inter-War Years.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation examines the characteristics of Iranian nationalist discourse between the World Wars. By looking at texts of intellectuals, men and women, published in three journals (Iranshahr, Name-ye Farangestan, and Ayandeh) in the 1920s this study maps the content of nationalist discourse and to what extent this discourse allows for dissonance. Informed by the work of Reinhart Koselleck (conceptual history), Quentin Skinner (the intellectual and his statements) and Michel Foucault (discourse analysis) the study triangulates a method for the in-depth study of the key texts in these journals. The narrative approach of Jörn Rüsen is adopted in order to structure and dissect the journal articles.

Key concepts in historical sociology help us pin point the underlaying assumptions of how history progresses in general and how modernity can be understood in particular. For these intellectuals Europe is considered both a possible future and a source of threatening imperialism. In constructing their own notion of what constitutes Iran and Iranians, they utilise both Europe (ideal, utopia) and to a lesser extent Africa (dystopia). Certain key issues emerge as of particular importance to modernist and nationalist intellectuals in their political projects and thus their narratives. Here we find national unity and notions of belonging – Iranianess. Subsequently an important medium for instilling this sense of belonging – education – is argued over, revealing ambitions and visions beyond unity. What kind of society and what degree of public participation do different intellectuals clamour for? The most sensitive topic is undoubtedly the gender aspect of nationhood and society. Here the question is how to re-configure gender roles without abdicating patriarchal control. On this topic some of the greatest dissonances can be found, where certain writers, from within a nationalist framework, harshly criticise both traditional gender divisions and reformist notions of marriage and female emancipation.

History does not repeat itself in its entirety but, as shown in this dissertation, what took place intellectually and politically in the 1920’s and 30’s points to salient elements that remain relevant for understanding Iran in the present.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • Salomon, Kim, Supervisor
  • Johansson, Rune, Supervisor, External person
Award date2009 May 20
ISBN (Print)978-91-628-7770-5
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2009-05-20
Time: 10:15
Place: Hörsal 128, St Algatan 4, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Sayyid, Salman
Title: Dr
Affiliation: University of Leeds, England


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History

Free keywords

  • Europe
  • historical sociology
  • discourse theory
  • modernity
  • Iran
  • education
  • gender
  • Koselleck
  • secularism
  • journals
  • intellectuals
  • Foucault
  • nationalism
  • conceptual history
  • Skinner
  • Rüsen


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