Discourses and Counter-discourses of Iranian National Identity during Khatami’s Presidency (1997-2005)
Thesis or dissertation
This thesis expands the discussion on Iranian national identity into the period of Khatami’s presidency. Within the theoretical and methodological framework of discourse analysis this thesis contends that the multiple constructions of Iranian national identity, which coexist and compete with each other, can be better understood as discourses. The detailed analysis of five discourses of national identity illustrates a complex set of relationships based on the meanings attached to Iran’s Islamic and pre-Islamic identities and how the West is dealt with in the construction of national identity. The first discourse addressed is the Islamist discourse of national identity, which prioritises Iran’s Islamic culture. At the opposite end of the spectrum the Iranist discourse, which is based on the prioritisation of Iran’s pre-Islamic culture, is deconstructed. It is contended that this represents a new indigenous Iranism that is based on a rediscovery of Sasanian Iran as opposed to Achaemenid Iran. Khatami’s discourse is presented as an attempt at a dialogue between Islamism and Iranism. It is argued that the Khatami period is unique in terms of the articulation of national identity because Khatami has combined for the first time ideas, which together form the Islamist-Iranian discourse of national identity, as an official state discourse. These are the combination of Islamic and pre-Islamic culture, the notion of ‘dialogue among civilisations’ and the idea of Islamic democracy. While these three discourses are based on the politicisation of culture, two additional discourses are presented that reject this politicisation. The first is a discourse of civic Iranian national identity and the second is a discourse of cosmopolitan Iranian national identity. It is contended that Khatami and his Islamist-Iranian discourse have allowed the more open articulation, since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, of these constructions of Iranian national identity.