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Reclaiming Islam and Modernity: A Neo-Shariati Revisiting of Ali Shariati's Intellectual Discourse in Post-revolutionary Iran Open Access


Other title
Middle East
Comparative Political Theory
Post-Colonial Thought
Ali Shariati
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Saffari, Siavash
Supervisor and department
Mahdavi, Mojtaba (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Nichols, Robert (Political Science)
Bayatrizi, Zohreh (Sociology)
Abu-Laban, Yasmeen (Political Science)
Dallmayr, Fred (Political Science, University of Notre Dame)
Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Over three and a half decades after his death, Ali Shariati (1933-1977) continues to occupy a major place in the ongoing academic and public debates about the relationship between Islam and modernity. Seldom, however, have commentators attended to the ways in which Shariati's intellectual followers in post-revolutionary Iran have read his thought in relation to the condition, content, and negotiation of modernity in Iran and other contemporary Muslim societies. This dissertation seeks to address the existing research gap by examining new readings of Shariati's thought by a group of Iranian intellectuals and activists collectively known as neo-Shariatis. It argues that in post-revolutionary Iran, neo-Shariatis have read Shariati's revolutionary Islamic discourse as a project of indigenous modernity whose critical reexamination can serve the negotiation of a third way between hegemonic universalism (in the form of Enlightenment rationalism, authoritarian modernism, and autocratic secularism) and essentialist particularism (in the form of Islamism and other types of religious, cultural, and ethnic identitarianism). Drawing on the normative and methodological insights of the emerging subdiscipline of comparative political theory, the dissertation identifies the Shariati/neo-Shariati discourse as one among several other discourses of indigenous modernity in contemporary Muslim societies, and as part of a broader post-colonial reconfiguration and reclaiming of modernity. In examining the sociopolitical significance of the Shariati/neo-Shariati project, the dissertation focuses on the theorization of an account of progressive public religion and a contextually grounded discourse of egalitarian secular democracy in the contributions of Ehsan Shariati, Sara Shariati, Reza Alijani and other leading neo-Shariati figures. The dissertation also identifies some of the ways in which the Shariati/neo-Shariati critique of colonial modernity and the attempt to develop a counter-hegemonic discourse of modernity on the basis of an Islamic spiritual ontology finds common ground with the discourses of various Western and non-Western critics of colonial modernity and Enlightenment rationality, and contributes to the advancement of a post-colonial vision of cosmopolitanism.
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