Dr. Navid Fozi, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at MEI, presented his ongoing research in a closed-door event at MEI yesterday. Dr. Fozi’s presentation, “Neo-Iranian Nationalism: Pre-Islamic Grandeur and Shiʿi Eschatology in Iranian Contemporary Politics,” chronicled President Ahmadinejad’s new discourse, which engages with Shiʿi beliefs about the Twelve Imams while at the same time focuses on the greatness of Iran’s pre-Islamic past. In both areas, the President attempts to legitimize himself as Iran’s rightful leader—first through his claims of a close relationship with the Twelfth Imam, and second by placing himself within Persia’s celebrated history, as, for example, a modern-day Cyrus the Great.
Dr. Fozi explained his project’s theoretical framework, which is based on the notion of historicity as put forth by anthropologist Michael Lambek. He also discussed the history of Iranian political discourse in the twentieth century to demonstrate how Ahmadinejad manipulates previous imagery to carve out his own nationalistic space. Finally, Dr. Fozi went through a genealogy of Iranian thought that plays a role in Ahmadinejad’s contemporary discourse, and he noted that Western thought also plays a role.
Audience members gave Dr. Fozi a number of suggestions for advancing the research, including adding more material on exactly how ruptures in Iranian discourse have occurred and assessing Ahmadinejad’s strategy through his discourse of dividing the ulema by forcing them to face their pluralism and disagreements.
To learn more about Dr. Fozi, please click here.