NOTE: This conference was held on September 16-17, 2006 on the campus of Chapman University in Orange California. It was sponsored by Mazda Publishers, the Iranica Institute, Chapman University and California State University, Fullerton.
The Iranian Constitutional Revolution represented the struggle of Iranian people towards constitutional democracy, parliamentary government, and social and economic reforms. Since the weakening of the Qajar dynasty in the second half of the nineteenth century, Western penetration in the region and the growing discontent within the country affected social, ideological, and economic changes, which continue to be relevant to Iranian society today. By the end of the nineteenth century, Iran was fully incorporated into a network of European commerce and had implemented several modernization measures, drawing the country closer to European influences in the areas of education and civil society. The culmination (and unintended consequences) of these and other historical developments paved the way to a period of social unrest and change, as ideas of constitutionalism, secularism, and nationalism became equated with modernization; new Iranian intellectuals (roshanfekran) promoted ideas of social change and challenged foreign imperialism; new forms of identity emerged; the traditional middle class reacted to court corruption and foreign economic domination; and non-Muslim minorities became increasingly politicized.
While historical accounts discuss these transformations as well as the immediate aftermath and legacy of the Constitutional Revolution, this conference aims to draw attention to the significance of this historical legacy in the context of Iran today and the everyday lives of Iranians during this fascinating historical moment. In this connection, the speakers will examine the broad themes of the Revolution: Western imperialism; human rights and democracy; modernization and intellectuals; state and nationalism; the global impact of the events; as well as papers which focus on the lesser examined histories of non-Muslim minorities’ involvement in the Revolution; the role of women in these movements and during this time more generally; the anjomans and secret societies formed; the poetry, satire, and various publications such as shabnamehs; and various historical accounts. This conference encourages innovative and novel approaches to these and other related themes and will focus on historical continuities and disjunctures with the current reality of Iranian life.
As the significance of the Constitutional Revolution is still very much alive in social memory as well as academic investigation, this event will create a multi-disciplinary forum to examine and commemorate this momentous event. While resenting the work of scholars and independent researchers, this conference aims to present this work and foster discussion in a broad forum that is not limited to academic audiences. As a free, public event that welcomes a diverse audience, which includes first and second-generation Iranians, youth, expatriates, and students, the speakers will avoid disciplinary jargon and present their talk in a widely accessible style.