SOAS University of London

Centre for Iranian Studies

Rights Governmentality in Post-World War II Iran

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto

Date: 21 February 2018Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 21 February 2018Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Room: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room

Type of Event: Seminar

At “a moment of danger” during WWII--when Iran was invaded by the Allied forces and Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-1941) was compelled to abdicate (16 September 1941)--a multi-confessional and constitutionally sanctioned “equality of rights” of all citizens emerged as a viable mode of governmentality. This was made possible with the increased pragmatic primacy provided by Article IIIV of the 1907 Supplementary Constitutional Law. It stated that “all citizens of Iran have equal rights before the state law.” This “equal rights” article was further strengthened by Article IX, which guaranteed equal protection: “All individuals are protected and safeguarded in respect to their lives, property, homes, and honor from every kind of interference.”

In the post World War period, Iranian lawyers, diplomat, academics, security officers and institutions increasingly recognized not only the pragmatic utility of these 1907 Supplementary Constitutional articles in responding to the time’s heightened political, religious, ethnic and linguistic rivalries, but also in securing Iran's sovereignty in the emerging postwar international order. They aligned the articles on constitutional equality and the equal protection of law articles with 1941’s “Atlantic Charter,” 1942’s “Declaration by United Nations,” and with the UN Charter’s commitment to “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” of 1945. Concurring also with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article VIII was increasingly seen as a fundamental constitutional principal for many significant legal, social and political “conduct of conducts” in the three decades prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. As this paper argues, this post-war governmentalization of rights was the reversal of the constitutional condominium between two overlapping but irreconcilable legal rationalities, as embodied in the 1907 Supplementary Constitutional Laws.

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi is Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. Since 2002 he has served as the Editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, a Duke University Press journal, and has served on the editorial board of Iranian Studies, the Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies. His areas of specialization encompass Middle Eastern History, Modernity, Nationalism, Gender Studies, Orientalism, and Occidentalism. He is the author of two books, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Nationalist Historiography (Palgrave, 2001) and Tajaddud-i Bumi [Vernacular Modernity] (in Persian, Nashr-i Tarikh, 2003). He has authored numerous articles: “The Homeless Texts of Persianate Modernity,” in Iran--Between Tradition and Modernity (Lexington Books, 2004); “Orientalist Studies and Its Amnesia,” in Antinomies of Modernity (Duke, 2002), “Eroticizing Europe,” in Society and Culture in Qajar Iran: (Mazda, 2002); “Women of the West Imagined,” in Identity Politics and Women (Westview Press, 1994); “From Patriotism to Matriotism: A Tropological Study of Iranian Nationalism, 1870-1909," International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2002), “Inventing Modernity, Borrowing Modernity,” Iran Nameh (2003). Born and raised in the “navel of Tehran,” Iran, Professor Tavakoli is the recipient of two Outstanding Teacher awards from Illinois State University (1996 and 2001); a Research Initiative Award (1992); and visiting fellowships at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University (1998), the Center for Historical Studies Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, 1992-93); and Harvard University (1991-92). He has initiated numerous conferences and workshops on topical issues pertaining to the Middle East.

Chair: Dr Nima Mina, SOAS

Organised by: Department of Near and Middle East Studies and the Department of Politics and International Studies in collaboration with the Centre for Iranian Studies, SOAS.

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