CFP: 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 paper 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