Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, Westoxication and the Politico-Theological Problem
A Seminar with Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi
This talk will argue that the political thought of one of twentieth century Iran’s foremost intellectuals, Jalal Al-e Ahmad (1923–1969) and his seminal work Gharbzadegi (1962), often translated as ‘Weststruck-ness’ or ‘Westoxication’, can and should be understood through the critical study of race and racialisation. In contrast to the paradigms of ‘nativism’, ‘Islamic atavism’ and the demand for a return to ‘cultural authenticity’ that have traditionally framed the significance and reception of his thought, this article contends that Al-e Ahmad’s notion of gharbzadegi provides crucial insights into how predatory forms of colonial capitalism stratify the economic world order in accordance with what W.E.B. Du Bois famously called the ‘colour line’. I submit that Al-e Ahmad’s political thought sheds light upon the conditions of Eurocentric and racialised forms of knowledge production and immanent material practices, and how they structure the lived experiences of colonial and semi-colonial subjects, as well as providing a remarkable perspective on how ‘race thinking’ and the ‘racial state’ were conceived and institutionalised in twentieth-century Iran.
Dr Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi is Lecturer in Comparative Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths, University of London. He was previously a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he also obtained his doctorate. He is the author of Revolution and its Discontents: Political Thought and Reform in Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2019), co-editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya’s Iran Page, and series editor of Radical Histories of the Middle East (Oneworld).
This seminar will take place on Zoom. Attendance requires pre-registration. Please register here.