The Discovery of Iran examines the history of Iranian nationalism afresh through the life and work of Taghi Arani, the founder of Iran's first Marxist journal, Donya. In his quest to imagine a future for Iran open to the scientific riches of the modern world and the historical diversity of its own people, Arani combined Marxist materialism and a cosmopolitan ethics of progress. He sought to reconcile Iran to its post-Islamic past, rejected by Persian purists and romanticized by their traditionalist counterparts, while orienting its present toward the modern West in all its complex and conflicting facets.
As Ali Mirsepassi shows, Arani's cosmopolitanism complicates the conventional wisdom that racial exclusivism was an insoluble feature of twentieth-century Iranian nationalism. In cultural spaces like Donya, Arani and his contemporaries engaged vibrant debates about national identity, history, and Iran's place in the modern world. In exploring Arani's short but remarkable life and writings, Ali Mirsepassi challenges the image of Interwar Iran as dominated by the Pahlavi state to uncover fertile intellectual spaces in which civic nationalism flourished.
About the author
Ali Mirsepassi is the Albert Gallatin Research Excellence Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. His latest book, Iran's Quiet Revolution: The Downfall of the Pahlavi State, was published in 2019.
"Ali Mirsepassi has produced a powerful and engaging intellectual biography which weaves Taghi Arani's life into the broader tapestry of modern Iranian nationalism and modernism. The Discovery of Iran is a major contribution to scholarly understanding of early Pahlavi Iran and shines a bright light on the ongoing relevance of its political and ideological controversies to more recent Iranian history."
—Stephanie Cronin, Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Research Fellow, University of Oxford
"With The Discovery of Iran, Ali Mirsepassi has succinctly analyzed Taghi Arani's innovative ideas. Although influenced by the Western Marxism of the 1930s, Arani is as relevant to the Iran of today as he was to his own time—maybe even more so."
—Ervand Abrahamian, Professor Emeritus, City University of New York