World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010


Iran and the West: Contacts and Mutual Perceptions (174) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Virginia Military Institute (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Elena Andreeva

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The panel addresses the issue of Iran’s relationship with European countries starting in the late 19th century to the present time. Analyzing different episodes in modern history of Iran from that perspective, the papers reveal the familiar pattern of Orientalist superiority and the perceived threat of the ‘Orientals’ and Islam, as well as attempts to dominate Iran, leading to the creation of distorted images and stereotypes of Iran in the past and through to the present. Sparse attempts by Iranian rulers to resist this physical and mental encroachment only made the unbalanced power relationship more transparent.

Chair: Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, New York University (USA)

Discussant: Maziar Behrooz, San Francisco State University (USA)

Paper presenter: Elena Andreeva (Virginia Military Institute) “Nasir al-Din Shah and Musaffar al-Din Shah in Russia in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries: Mutual Conceptions and Misconceptions”
The paper demonstrates how contemporary Russian media reacted to the travels of Nasir al-Din Shah and Muzaffar al-Din Shah to Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the spirit of Russian Orientalism. This outlook combined an attitude of superiority towards the ‘Orient’ and aspiration to dominate it with a sense of hidden inferiority based on the split in the Russian national identity between the East and the West. This ambiguous attitude is matched by the attempts of the Iranian monarchs expressed in their diaries to remain impassive while facing demonstrations of Russia’s military might, technological superiority and political pressure.

Paper presenter: Peter Chelkowski (New York University) “Polish Army and Civilians in Iran during World War II”
The paper is devoted to the Polish community in Iran and Polish-Iranian relations at the official and civic levels during World War II in the context of the Allies’ occupation of Iran. After Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941, Russians granted amnesty to all Poles, military and civilian, who had been kept in Soviet prisons and camps since the Russian occupation of Poland in 1939. General Anders was charged with the task of assembling a Polish army and in the summer of 1942, was able to ferry 115,000 Polish men, women and children to Bandar Pahlavi in Iran. While the Polish Army’s sojourn in Iran was short, many Polish civilians remained in Iran for a long time.

Paper presenter: Anna Vanzan Univesity (IULM, Milano and University of Pavia) “Covering Iran”
The paper focuses on a number of popular and scholarly books relating to Iran published in Europe and the United States in the last 30 years and examines their covers as a powerful means of manipulation and manufacturing deprecation of present Iran, inducing sensationalism and a fear of Islam. Iran, targeted as a ‘rogue country,’ is crucial in the process of the New Orientalism phase which began after 9/11. As a result, Western publications on Iran on any subject matter usually carry photos of bearded men and heavily veiled women as if they were threatening the West with the incumbent ‘clash of civilizations.