Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of highly acclaimed scholarly books and articles on Iran, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and philosophy of arts. Among the leading U.S. dissidents and a frequent lecturer around the globe, he lives in New York.
Declaring at the outset that he has an "ax to grind," Columbia University professor Dabashi focuses on the last 200 years of Iranian history, through the lens of a worldly cosmopolitan. He rejects the familiar dichotomy between the "traditional" and the "modern" in Iran, arguing that it's at best ill-conceived and at worst a tool of European/American colonialism. Instead, Dabashi suggests the notion of an "anticolonial modernity," predicated on Iranians' struggles "against the colonial robbery of the moral and material foundations of [their] historical agency." While he raises many worthy questions, Dabashi's thesis is weakened by a lack of nuance. He also exhibits many of the flaws he decries, establishing, for instance, his own dichotomies ("for us the world was squarely divided into two opposing parts: those who ruled it and those who resisted this tyranny") and using ahistorical terminology to dismiss people, ideas or national projects with which he disagrees (e.g., equating Iran's Islamic Republic with America's "Christian empire"). Peppered alternately with delightful vignettes from his Iranian youth and dense academic-speak, the result is a book that may please those who agree with its author, but is unlikely to win over the uninitiated. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.