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Call for articles: Iranian Cosmopolitanism

Call for Paper: Iranian Cosmopolitanism
Special Issue, Journal of Comparative Islamic Studies
Journal Editor: Ulrika Mårtensson, The Norwegian University of Science
and Technology
Special Issue Editors: Milad Odabaei, University of California,
Berkeley, and Christopher Cochran, University of California, Santa Cruz

This call for papers invites contributions that will provide theoretical
advancements in understanding textual, conceptual, historical and
sociological contours of “Iranian Cosmopolitanism.” The need for
theoretical advancement is propelled by the dilemma intrinsic to
theorization of non-European cosmopolitanisms. Conceptions of
“cosmopolitanism” destabilize the demarcations of terrestrial fixities
and invite us to consider the political and ethical significance of the
movement of peoples, things and ideas that exceed the constitution of
territorial identities. At the same time, however, cosmopolitanism’s
political and ethical registers are indebted to the vicissitudes of
philosophical and religious traditions that underlie the identity of
Europe. Inevitably, the analysis of the “cosmopolitanism” of
non-Europeans, as in Iran, put forward sociological determinations with
a European genealogy. When European sociological determinations are
reflected back into the object of study, in this case Iran, the
conclusion too easily appears that the cosmopolitanism of Iran, if it
exists, comes to Iran from Europe. Hence, many scholars have resigned to
always tracing cosmopolitanism back to Europe, where it is conceptually
at home, while others ignore this dilemma, risking disavowal so they may
better express the actuality of non-European expression of cosmopolitanism.

Highlighting this dilemma, we seek both case studies and theoretical
considerations that bear on the conceptualization of “Iranian
cosmopolitanism.” Particularly, we invite studies of religious
traditions, and the place of religion in Iranian statecraft that inform
Iranian cosmopolitanism and its ethical and political registers. We
wonder what political and religious traditions, textual flows, concepts
and exchanges can make possible dialogue with the European concept of
cosmopolitanism, perhaps bending or even breaking its meaning as a
result, and bringing forth singularities that may be otherwise hidden.
If instead such a dialogue is found to be unattainable, we ask scholars
to theorize its impossibility. What are the unique ways in which
religious traditions relate to Iranian politics, statecraft and empire
at different moments of Iranian development and decline? What is the
relation between political and religious belonging in Iran? Do they
coincide? Does one trump or engender the other? Or is political
belonging defined independently of religious affiliation? Contributors’
case studies may elaborate religious pasts and occulted presences that
express belonging to both Iran and to a world that extends beyond Iran.
They may put forth concepts and theories that have garnered to shape a
political authority that can be properly identified as Iranian, and
thereby at the same time provide contours of an Iran that belongs within
a world that exceeds its own identity.

We invite papers that explore classical Iranian political and religious
traditions; the Iranian satrapy model, its regulation of religious
difference and its expansion throughout the Islamic world; the
significance of Zoroastrianism in pre-Islamic Iran, its lives as a minor
religion in Iran and in the Indian subcontinent, and its afterlives
within the Islamic tradition and Iranian politics; the development of
Islamic tradition and Greek philosophy in Iran and Iranian milieus in
the medieval period; the genres of ethical and political treaties; the
“mirror of the prince” advice literature; Shi’a tradition as it develops
in Iranian milieus and at the same time, extends beyond Iranian
political borders. In the course of their elaborations, contributors
might also address Iran’s particular geographical location on the
Eurasian continent; its religious and political reformulations and
reinvention by moments of conquest, destruction and/or decline; its
centrality in medieval trade; its religious and political developments
amidst Iranian tajadod, “renewal,” or “modernity” in the nineteenth
century; Iran’s peculiar relation to colonization and imperial
domination of the Middle East and North Africa; its articulation of
reformist and revolutionary Islam in the late nineteenth and twentieth
century and around the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and the Islamic
Revolution of 1979. Contributors may investigate the vocabularies and
grammar of difference, which correspond to the various and intersecting
registers of plurality, and condition the possibilities and limits of
belonging to Iran. They might do so, for example, by considering the
historical Persian Jewish community; the rise and persecution of Babism
and the Bahai faith in nineteenth century; the Kurdish and Azari
Yarsanis or Sunni Turkmans in the present. Lastly, contributors may
investigate the sources of continuity and discreteness of Iranian
historical consciousness across time.

Abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted to Milad Odabaei and
Christopher Cochran at by March 1, 2016.

The contributors will hear from the editors by March 15, 2016. The
deadline for article submission is September 15, 2016. The articles,
including all notes, are expected to be between 6000-8000 words in
length and follow the journal’s style guide.