Arjomand: The Critical Turn of Ulema-State Relations
Tehran Bureau / KEVAN HARRIS

[ Q & A ] Professor Said Arjomand has shaped the trajectory of Iranian studies on numerous occasions. His book The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam (1984) was a major intervention in the debate over the relationship in Iranian history of Shi'a ulema with the state, arguing that during the Savafid era (16th-18th centuries), the development of the idea of a return of the 12th Imam formulated a quiescent posture, not a revolutionary challenge to political authority. In The Turban for the Crown (1988), at a time when Western audiences were still confused about the 1979 Iranian Revolution and its world-historical implications, Arjomand combined analyses of the relationship between state and ulema in Iran in the long dureé, the rise of the bureaucratic state under Pahlavi modernization and the discontents it produced, and a keen comparative look at how Islamic revolutionary ideology was not novel in its appeal to tradition, but an innovative latecomer in a long string of revolutions that produced ambiguous results. It became a key text on the 1979 revolution for a generation of scholars and journalists. Along the way, he has interviewed Ruhollah Khomeini (during his stay at Neauphle-le-Château), Shapour Bakhtiar (the last Prime Minister before the Revolution), Abo'l-Hassan Bani-Sadr (the former president under the Islamic Republic), and his wife interviewed former Empress Farah Pahlavi. He has continued to produce innovative work during his long tenure at the State Univ... >>>

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