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Tracing the International Dimensions of Iranian Nationalism: The Era of Mohammad Reza Shah

In: Iran and the Caucasus
Author: Zelal Özdemir1
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  • 1 Middle East Technical University, Ankara
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This study explores the reconstruction of Iranian national identity during the Mohammad Reza Shah era (1953 to 1979). Drawing on materials collected from the memoirs and statements of the Shah and the key actors of the era and using Historical Sociology in International Relations as its theoretical backbone, it aims to unravel the constitutive role of the international on the formation of Iranian state nationalism. It argues that in order to understand the meaning attached to being Iranian, we should look into the specifics of international- domestic interaction, as Iranian national identity has been framed and re-framed by the Shah alongside the changing dynamics born out of specific interaction between the domestic and international dynamics. The Shah’s interpretation of Iranian identity emerged and evolved at the intersection of his endeavours for gaining legitimacy against the legacy of Mosaddeq and his popular nationalism at the domestic level and for reclaiming the actorness of Iran during the Cold War at the international level. Playing inwards and outwards, the Shah sought to deconstruct the content of Iranian nationalism articulated by Mosaddeq and to give a new meaning to Iranian nationalism. Serving as the ideological glue of his state building, it was characterized by a strong belief in the rapid industrialization, emphasis on unity rather than diversity, uniqueness of Iranian identity vis-à-vis the East and the West, and presentation of the Shah as the real and moral representative of the Iranian people.

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