UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Between worlds, among stories : a cosmopolitan approach to Iranian political culture Khatami, Richie Nojang


Literature on Iran’s political culture and future democratic potentials has flourished in the past decade. How does one interpret this growing field and, more widely, a nation’s distinct political identity? Any clear understanding of a distant culture like Iran’s is bound to be influenced by one’s subject position and familiarity with its past, its customs and the disclosure of its people’s self-understandings. Interpretations that seek to go beyond ethnocentricity and Orientalism, therefore, are dependent on the expressions of those who know and breathe the culture. The purpose of this paper is to put forward a method that all interpreters can use to approach Iran’s political culture in order to gain a thorough, shared understanding of it. I argue that an interpretive, hermeneutic methodology is the best approach for such a purpose, with emphasis on the importance of narratology, or an examination of the diverse narratives associated with Iran, its political culture, and its identity. A multifaceted understanding of various narratives—whether political or artistic—serves to sustain a comprehensive grasp of Iran’s political culture for all interpreters, entailing significant consequences for the persistent discussions of the nation’s political future and democratic prospects. A cosmopolitan viewpoint reveals an open-ended political situation in Iran, whose civil society continues to display a capacity for democratic participation.

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