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The "Human Sciences" on Trial in Iran


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Speaker(s): Professor Ali Mirsepassi
Chair: Dr Ayça Çubukçu

Recorded on 7 November 2013 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

Why the "human sciences" have become the target of a major government crackdown in Iran today. This talk will focus thematically upon a specific conceptual shift. Today’s religious-reformist intellectuals articulating Iran’s contemporary mass movement for democracy draw their vision of change from the social sciences rather than philosophy, reflecting complex underlying conceptual-theoretical and organizational-practical shifts since the long struggle over independence and the future that shaped the twentieth century. In the 1950s a radical intellectual shift had taken place from a discourse of progress and science to a different discourse focusing on issues of authenticity, nativism or anti-Enlightenment. The Iranian reform movement, with its origins in the 2nd of Khordad Front, changed the terms of public discourse from the ideologically closed post-revolutionary worldview grounded in the Heideggerian philosophical concepts Bazghash be khish (return to roots/self) and Gharbzadegi (Westoxication) to an open-ended pragmatic politics dedicated to Weberian principles of asadi (liberty) and jam’eh-e madani (civil society) based on predictability of legal procedure (i.e. constitutionalism, citizenship and human rights) – a significant shift from ontology to pragmatics.

Ali Mirsepassi is professor of Middle Eastern studies and sociology and director of the Iranian Studies Initiative at New York University, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology at LSE during MT 2013.

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