SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Iran: History, Culture, Politics

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. the abilitiy to critically assess the historical development of Iranian society, economics and culture within the context of the wider west Asian area.
  2. appreciation for the complexity of the history and cultural make up of Iran.
  3. the ability to analyse Iran in accordance with an interdisciplinary curriculum and a flexible study programme encompassing the full range of historical, cultural and socio-economic aspects of the country in past and present.
  4. knowledge about the religious and politico-cultural influences affecting contemporary Iran and the region(s) the country is embedded in.


This course will be taught over 20 weeks with 2 hours lecture and 1 hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

This course will present an interdisciplinary critical overview of the long history of Iran, but with particular focus on key issues in contemporary Iranian society, politics, and culture. For this reason, it draws upon expertise in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of Near and Middle East, of History, Politics, Study of Religions, and Media.  It will be available as a minor option for the MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, MA Islamic Studies and MA Islamic Societies and Cultures, to which it will provide a unique focus on Iran.

The course will be complemented by language courses at different levels and by courses on literature and cinema.

Method of assessment

An essay of 3000 words to be submitted on the last Friday of term 1 (25%); an essay of 3000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 5, term 2 (25%); an essay of 3000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 11, term 2 (25%); and essay of 3000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (25%).



Suggested reading

  • Abrahamian, Ervand, A history of Iran (Cambridge UP, 2008)
  • Adelkhah, Fariba, Being Modern in Iran (Hurst, 1999)
  • Adib-Moghaddam, Arshin, On the Arab Revolts and the Iranian Revolution: Power and Resistance Today (Bloomsbury, 2014)
  • Atabaki, Touraj (ed.), Iran in the 20th century: Historiography and Political Culture (I.B. Tauris, 2009);
  • Boroujerdi, Mehrzad, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The tormented triumph of nativism (Syracuse UP, 1996)
  • Dabashi, Hamid, Theology of Discontent (Transaction, 2005)
  • Dabashi, Hamid, The World of Persian Literary Humanism (Harvard UP, 2012)
  • Gheissari, Ali (ed.), Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics (Oxford UP, 2009)
  • Katouzian, Homa, The Persians: Ancient, Medieval and Modern Iran (Yale UP, 2010)
  • Keddie, Nikki and Rudi Matthee (eds.), Iran and the Surrounding World: Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics (University of Washington Press, 2002)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules