Hussein Banai, "Hidden Liberalism: Burdened Visions of Progress in Modern Iran" (Cambridge UP, 2020)


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Compared to rival ideologies, liberalism has fared rather poorly in modern Iran. This is all the more remarkable given the essentially liberal substance of various social and political struggles - for liberal legality, individual rights and freedoms, and pluralism - in the century-long period since the demise of the Qajar dynasty and the subsequent transformation of the country into a modern nation-state. The deeply felt but largely invisible purchase of liberal political ideas in Iran challenges us to think more expansively about the trajectory of various intellectual developments since the emergence of a movement for reform and constitutionalism in the late nineteenth century. It complicates parsimonious accounts of Shi'ism, secularism, socialism, nationalism, and royalism as defining or representative ideologies of particular eras. Hidden Liberalism: Burdened Visions of Progress in Modern Iran (Cambridge UP, 2020) offers a critical examination of the reasons behind liberalism's invisible yet influential status, and its attendant ethical quandaries, in Iranian political and intellectual discourses.

Hussein Banai is an Associate Professor of International Studies in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Research Affiliate at the Center for International Studies at MIT. Banai's research interests lie at the intersection of political thought and international relations, with a special focus on topics in democratic theory, non-Western liberal thought, diplomatic history and theory, US-Iran relations, and Iran’s political development. He has published on these topics in academic, policy, and popular periodicals. In addition to Hidden Liberalism, he is the co-author of two volumes on US-Iran relations: Republics of Myth: National Narratives and the US-Iran Conflict (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022); Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979–1988 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012); and co-editor of Human Rights at the Intersections: Transformation through Local, Global, and Cosmopolitan Challenges (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2023).

Amir Sayadabdi is a Lecturer in Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington. He is mainly interested in anthropology of food and its intersection with gender studies, migration studies, and studies of race, ethnicity, and nationalism.

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