Defining Iran presents a new and revealing analysis of the way in which Iranian political discourses compete with each other by examining them within the framework of national identity construction. By deconstructing the intellectual roots and development of Iranian national identity, Shabnam Holliday advocates the need to study Iran's heritage and historical experience to understand key shifts and processes in contemporary Iranian politics. Holliday convincingly argues that competing discourses of national identity advocated by political figures from Musaddiq to the current administration demonstrate a politics of resistance to both internal and external forces. With a particular emphasis on Khatami’s presidency, this study compares the meanings attached by significant members of the Iranian political elite to concepts including Iran’s pre-Islamic heritage, Islamic heritage, civilization, 'democracy' and the 'West'. Furthermore, discourses of Iranian national identity exist not in isolation but rather as part of a continuous process construction and reconstruction in Iran's journey of political development; a process manifested so vividly in the revolution of 1979 and the fallout from the 2009 presidential election. Defining Iran simultaneously furthers our understanding of the conceptualization of national identity both generally and specifically in the case of Iran and political dynamics which shape contemporary Iran.
'Defining Iran is a timely addition to current debates on the Iranian national identity. Through a close reading of a wide range of representative texts the book offers valuable insights into this many faceted discourse.' Ali Gheissari, University of San Diego, USA 'What it means to be an Iranian? Shabnam Holliday throws valuable light on the intense competition (between Islamists, reformists, seculars, minorities, among others) to define the Iranian national identity in post-revolutionary period. She brings together and analyzes diverse views and contending discourses to show how a national identity is constructed. A fine contribution.' Asef Bayat, University of Illinois, USA 'This book is a welcome addition to the literature on Iranian politics. It traces the continuing tensions between faith and nationalism in Iran across the 20th Century. The continuous contestations and construction and reconstruction of the Iranian identities by citizens, intellectuals and political and religious leaders has a dynamic that continues to this day. This volume is an intelligent and well-considered analysis of the actors, ideas and processes that have contributed to identity formations and have, in the process at time, fuelled revolutions in Iran across the 20th century and continue to do so today. The book makes an invaluable contribution to understanding what it means to be Iranian for those who have been agents of change and those who have been subject to it in Iran.' Baroness Afshar, University of York, UK '... Holliday lifts the lid on a fascinating political debate over identity that has occurred within a country that hold significant regional influence and global implications.' New Zealand International Review ’There are [...] many good things in Defining Iran. Holliday conducted her research in Iran, met with Iranian scholars, and was exposed to ordinary Iranians. It provided her with a sense and feeling of Iraniyat and Islamiyat that many deskwork-based sc