Cultural Engineering in Contemporary Iran

First Name: 
Last Name: 
Institutional Affiliation : 
University of Toronto
Academic Bio: 
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi is Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto and the former chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Since 2002 he has served as Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, a Duke University Press journal, and is the co-editor of Iranian Studies book series (AIS/Routledge). Currently he is President of the Association for Iranian Studies (AIS). Tavakoli’s areas of specialization encompass Middle Eastern History, Modernity, and Nationalism. He is the author of two books, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Nationalist Historiography (Palgrave, 2001) and Tajaddud-i Bumi [Vernacular Modernity] (in Persian, Nashr-i Tarikh, 2003). He has authored articles on “Early Persianate Modernity,” “Historiography and Crafting Iranian National Identity,” “Narrative Identity in the Works of Hedayat and His Contemporaries,” “Orientalist Studies and Its Amnesia,” “Eroticizing Europe,” “From Patriotism to Matriotism: A Tropological Study of Iranian Nationalism, 1870-1909," and “Anti-Baha’ism and Islamism.” Among others, his Persian language articles have appeared in Iran Nameh, Nimeye Digar, Rahavard, I‘timad-i Milli, and Mihr Namah. He holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in History from the University of Iowa, and a 1988 PhD in History from the University of Chicago.


Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 the rhetoric of engineering has become increasingly hegemonic in the conceptualization, description, and explanation of politics by the political elite in Iran. The uniqueconcepts of “election engineering,” “engineered demonstrations,” “religious engineering,” “mind engineering, and even “engineering the national spirit” are expressive of an ongoing figurative transformation of Persian political language, which since the late 19th century had been informed by tropes stemming from science and medicine. The fusion of engineering concepts with Shi‘i theology and eschatology has led to the articulation of novel projects such as a “geometry of new theology,” a “geometry of expectation,” and a “geometry of Mahdism.” As restive Iranian citizens seek to “build” a post-Islamist Iran, the cultural engineers of the Islamic Republic are transforming the dissident theology of historical Shi‘ism into a state-centered blueprint for building individuals who are committed to its “divine design and geometry.”

Academic Discipline : 
Political Science
Time Period : 

Posted in