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BOOK REVIEW: 'Iran Without Borders: Towards A Critique of the Postcolonial Nation' by Hamid Dabashi

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Hamid Dabashi’s book is a treat, well written. He talks about an important subject, the idea of the nation through the history of Iran. A concept created by the Europeans during the 19th century and exported around the world during the European colonialism era.

Far from the propaganda of the Western countries and also directly from inside Iran with the so-called “Islamic Republic of Iran” controlled by the Shi’a clerics. Dabashi meticulously demonstrated the nonsense of the modern concept of nation state.

Dabashi shows numerous examples of Iranians from hundreds of years ago to today living and traveling abroad, sharing their cultures, mixing with other cultures such as in Germany, France, India and even China. A phenomenon not unique to Iranians, one just needs to look at the European history and more especially the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century where philosophers and scientist from all of Europe were discussing and exchanging ideas.

But it is true that the example of Iran is very interesting as Iran is composed of several different cultures, Kurds, Turks, Baluch, Arabs, Azeri, etc. And religions like Islam (Sunni and Shi’a), Christians, Judaism, and Zoroastrian. It is these varieties that make Iran unique.

A diversity that scared the actual rulers in Iran and its monoculture dogma, Islam Shi’a. Dabashi doesn't hesitate to accuse the Shi’a clerics and the former Supreme Leader of Iran Khomeini to have stolen the Iranian Revolution in 1977-79. A revolution that was far to be Islamic but incorporated all the levels and groups of the Iranian society.

The propaganda of nation state is today devastating the world through wars and civil wars such as in the Middle East and Africa. The nation state idea has made diversities not welcome, letting the strongest group of each state taking the power at the expense of other minorities. Muslims against Jewish in Israel/Palestine, Hindu against Muslims in India, Nationalism Buddhist against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Blacks against Arabs in Soudan and White against Latinos in the U.S., to name only a few.

And the last one the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant against Latinos, Muslims and any others minorities is symptomatic of the Western nation state,  not able to accept other minorities in their own country, even if the U.S. pretends to not be a nation state such as European countries. Used to live in their monoculture and ethnicity of White Christian people, the west is discovering the joy and difficulties to live in a multicultural state.

But due to its impossibility to conceive a multicultural area including not only a White Christians’ view but also Arabs, Africans, Asians, Islam, etc. Europe could implode in the next decades.

As it is suggested by Dabashi in his book Iran Without Borders, it is time to reconsider the term of the nation for the greater good. Culture has no frontiers and perhaps a state should be seen not as a nation but more has a partnership between different cultural groups.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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