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With its title borrowed from Machiavelli, The Persian Prince goes far beyond Machiavelli's wildest imagination as to how to rule the world. Hamid Dabashi articulates a bold new idea of the Persian Prince—a metaphor of political authority, a figurative ideal deeply rooted in the collective memories of multiple nations, and a literary construct that connected Muslim empires across time and space and continues to inform political debate today.
Drawing on works from Classical Antiquity and the vast Persianate worlds from India to the Mediterranean, as well as the Hebrew Bible and European medieval mirrors for princes, Dabashi engages a diverse body of political thought to reveal the construction of the Persian Prince as a potent archetype. He traces this archetype through its varied historic gestations and finds it resurfacing in postcolonial political thought as a rebel, a prophet, a poet, and a nomad. Bringing poetics and politics together, Dabashi shows how this archetypal figure has long-defined political authority throughout the wider Iranian and Islamic worlds.
With meticulous attention to literary and poetic texts, moral and philosophical treatises, allegorical and anecdotal stories, sacred and secular evidence, visual and performing arts, histories of global empires and colonial conquests, this sweeping work offers a deeply learned, richly erudite, and transformative piece of critical thinking. As Dabashi shows, the Persian Prince remains the stuff of current debate across the Muslim and Persianate worlds, in contestations over the public domain and the collective will to power, and above all in the prospects of democratic institutions.
About the Author
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Max Weber’s theory of charismatic authority with Philip Rieff (1922-2006), the most distinguished Freudian cultural critic of his time. Professor Dabashi has taught and delivered lectures in many North American, European, Arab, and Iranian universities. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including The End of Two Illusions: Islam after the West (2022) and Iran: A People Interrupted (2007).
About the Speakers
Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on boundary disputes, borderland histories, gender, and identity politics in the Middle East. Her book, Frontier Fictions: Shaping the Iranian Nation, 1804-1946 (Princeton University Press, 1999) analyzes the significance of land and border disputes to the process of identity and nation formation, as well as to cultural production, in Iran and its borderlands. It pays specific attention to Iran's shared boundaries with the Ottoman Empire (later Iraq and Turkey), Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf region. Building on this body of research, Professor Kashani-Sabet is completing a forthcoming book, Tales of Trespassing: Borderland Histories of Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf, in which she expands on her arguments about frontiers, nature, and border communities in Middle Eastern modernity.
Debashree Mukherjee is an Associate Professor in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She is a scholar of film and media, specializing in modern mass media forms produced in South Asia and its diasporas. Methodological insights are drawn from film and media studies, feminist decolonial historiography, and environmental humanities. Her first monograph, Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (Columbia University Press, 2020), presents a practitioner’s eye-view of filmmaking activity in late colonial Bombay, approaching cinema as an ecology of energy relations that connect the studio and the screen. She is currently working on a second book, tentatively titled "Camera Obscura: Media at the Dawn of Planetary Extraction."
Pier Mattia Tommasino is an Associate Professor of Italian at Columbia University, associate editor of Romanic Review, and founder of the Italian Mediterranean Colloquium. Tommasino’s teaching and research explores the generative contact between the Italian peninsula and the Muslim world from the fourteenth through the early eighteenth centuries. His first book is The Venetian Qur’an: a Renaissance Companion to Islam, published in Italian in 2013 and in English in 2018. He is currently finishing his second monograph, entitled Port Voices, Courtly Texts. Five Observations of Late Medici Orientalism, 1666-1673.
Alison Vacca is the Gevork M. Avedissian Associate Professor of Armenian History and Civilization in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She is a historian of early Islam working on the caliphal provinces Armenia and Caucasian Albania, the regions that today include eastern Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Her work centers on several themes, including intercultural transmission of historical texts, quick-changing alliances in moments of intercommunal violence, and intermarriage across ethnic and religious lines.
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