Iranian Identity: in Three Narratives


Iranian identity has been subjected to different definitions and interpretation by scholars in Iran’s contemporary history. This paper attempts to analyze three most dominant of these interpretations as narratives on the development of successive periods of Iran’s modern and ancient history. These narratives can generally be characterized in their chronological order as “patriotic, or romantic. “modern and post-modern,” and the historically-specific.

The first narrative, considers the emergence of nations as a natural development dating back to pre-historic period. According to the second narrative, however, “nation” is a totally modern concept devised and utilized by the modern nation-states since the 18th century. There is, therefore, a historical gap between national “identity,” and its ancient counterparts. The third narrative, while accepting the assumption that “national identity” is a modern phenomenon, does not assume that there is a complete break, particularly in the case of Iran, between modern national identity and pre-modern historical identity of ancient but still surviving societies.

It was towards the end of the 19the century that concepts such as “nation and nationality,” “homeland and country,” and “patriotism” in their modern connotations, emerged in Iran. For the first time, national and ethnic identities were distinguished from other forms of identity, including religious identity, without necessarily negating them.  

احمد اشرف
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