Book Review: Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
Journal Title:NETSOL: New Trends in Social and Liberal Sciences
Reza Zia-Ebrahimi brings a fresh approach to the understanding of Iranian nationalism. Earlier works in Iranian nationalism largely overlooked the impact of nineteenth-century European racism on Iran. This book fills that gap in the literature by bringing out the racial discussions from the second half of nineteenth century, especially the creation of Aryan and Semitic racial groups. Inspired by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983), Zia-Ebrahimi posits that despite being in the east as a majority Muslim nation, predominant orientalist historiography presented Iranians as distant cousins of mythical Aryans and heavily emphasized its pre-Islamic past. The depiction of Iranians as what they were rather than what they currently are dislocated them from their reality. This dislocative nationalism that has been imagined rather than empirical has long dominated the scholarship on Iranian nationalism. Throughout the text Zia-Ebrahimi refers to these imaginary nationalists as “dislocative nationalists” rather than Iranian nationalists.