Fundamental to the understanding of contemporary Iran is a proper appreciation of the two Twentieth-Century revolutions that changed indelibly the nature of political rule in the country. Each of these events, the Constitutional Revolution (1905–1911) and the Islamic Revolution (1978–1979), reflected the culmination of several decades of interaction between traditional elements of Iranian society and forces of modernity and change; each of them also saw the coalescence of a familiar coalition of internal actors: the clerical establishment, the mercantile class, and the intelligentsia. In this class, we shall follow the internal developments of Iran as it went from Qājār autocracy in the Nineteenth Century to the Islamic Republic today. Specific topics of discussion include the Bābī revolt, the Tobacco Protest, the Constitutional Revolution, the attempted coup by Moḥammad Moṣāddeq, the 1955 anti-Bahāʾī pogrom, and the Islamic Revolution. Ultimately, we shall shed light on the red thread running throughout all of these events: the tension between the political and religious authorities in Iran.
This course represents a combination of a lecture and seminar approaches and individual participation in class dialogues is critical. Each student will have the opportunity to lead a classroom discussion revolving around the assigned readings. Students will write two papers for this class: a mid-term paper on an assigned topic and a research paper on a topic of choice. Students will be evaluated on the basis of four factors: (1) participation (20%), (2) mid-term paper (25%), (3) seminar presentation (25%), and (4) a research paper (30%). Given the importance of discussion, students are expected to have read the assigned reading in advance of each class. Recommended readings are not required, but are offered for those seeking further depth, as a starting point for research papers, and as a highly-encouraged resource for those leading the daily conversations. At the end of this course, it is hoped that students will have not only a better understanding of modern Iran, but have developed better research skills, practiced critical thinking, and gained experience collecting and presenting information clearly.
Arjomand, Saïd Amir. The Turban for the crown: The Islamic revolution in Iran. New York City & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.