IRAN AND THE SURROUNDING WORLD: Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics

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IRAN AND THE SURROUNDING WORLD: Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics, Nikki R. Keddie and Rudi Matthee, eds., University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2002, 400 pages, $30.00.

Iran considers itself to be a cultural beacon in the Middle East and South Asia. The Islamic fervor of the 1979 Iranian revolution is only one manifestation of centuries of poetic, artistic, linguistic, and cultural influences that Iran (Persia) has had in the region. In private circles, the Iranians feel they brought the theory of governance, bureaucracy, and an appreciation for art to their Arab conquerors in the 8th century. They also feel that it is in their tradition that Islam is being reinterpreted to address the issues of the 21st century. Those studying the Middle East should not ignore the psychological superiority the Iranians feel toward their neighbors.

Sixteen cultural and political academics who specialize in subjects relating to Iran, focus on Iran's image of itself, its culture, and its history. Essayist juan Cole presents a historical assessment of the Iranian culture and how it has permeated South Asia. he explains that during the rise of the Mughal Empire in India, many Persians flocked to the subcontinent, bringing with them bureaucratic experience. Over the decades, the Persian language became the language of the Mughal court, which required that those pursuing a higher education in India must first learn Persian.

Thomas Barfield examines Turkish, Arab, and Persian tribal relationships and how they affect Iran as a modern state. he describes the Safavid, Qajar, and Pehlavi dynasties and how they sought to balance the three ethnic tribes within Iran to try to forge a nationalist identity.

Golnar Mehran analyzes Islamic Republic school textbooks to understand what civic lessons are being taught. …