Nationalism Construction in Iran's Political Geography Based on Governmentality Concept in the First Pahlavi Era

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities, Yazd University, Yazd, Iran.



Extended Abstract
The concept of governmentality was first proposed by Michel Foucault in 1978; it involves studying techniques, processes, and approaches in which governments control all aspects of citizens' lives. In the context of this cognitive approach, socio-political discourse creates the political dimension of space at a certain point in history. In this regard, one of the important themes in the concept of governmentality framework is understanding how governance discourses' role constructs the nationalism components. In other words, nationalism can be reconstructed at any point in time by historical political discourses. In fact, national identity construction is a discourse process product; more precisely, it is part of discourse conflicts. Thus, national identity is not merely a natural aspect but an artificial phenomenon created over time by political power. So, it is established as a collective memory and has the potential for disintegrating. Thus, in defining Iranian identity, different governments, according to their attitudes, have highlighted and emphasized one or more elements of Iranian identity. This study seeks to represent the elements of nationalism discourse in the political sovereignty functioning for the construction of the political geography of Iran in the first Pahlavi era.  
This article has attempted to rely on interpretive methods and use the theoretical theme of discourse governmentality to explain how to build a national identity in the first Pahlavi era and its consequences in the political geography of Iran. In this regard, in the first stage, the concept of nationalism was defined in the framework of Foucault's view based on theoretical documents.
Results and discussion
Discourse analysis of national identity construction indicates that national identity construction in the first Pahlavi era was organized based on the ancient Iranian nationalism discourse for the solidarity of ethnic groups and social classes. In other words, this discourse highlighted ancient Iran's history of seeking to arouse patriotic motives in different tribes and ethnicities. In this regard, promoting historical buildings, naming many places and public symbols based on the names of ancient Iran, allocating financial resources to discover ancient monuments, establishing institutions such as historical museums, and inserting symbols of Zoroastrianism and the ancient kingdoms of Iran in the buildings of this period by the government paved the way for the further development of Iranian identity in the light of the ancient monarchy. At the same time, part of nationalism articulation was based on the relationship made against "other" concerning geopolitical conflict components. From the middle of the eighteenth century and during the nineteenth century, with the emergence of British and Russian colonial rivalries in Southwest Asia and its destructive effect on the independence and territorial integrity of Iran, the creation of national solidarity discourses in Iran was based on the conflict with these hostile empires. Thus, in the first Pahlavi period, the discourse of becoming an undisputed military power became one of the cohesive tools of national identity. In fact, this reading of nationalism differs from its conceptual context in the Western tradition and is linked to independence and anti-colonialism as a ruling discourse. Hence, suspicion of colonial powers in the first Pahlavi era was used to form a large army to counter foreign conspiracies and build national solidarity. This discourse for building national identity was often used, reading ancient Iran's historical myths, texts, and inscriptions to confirm the righteous king's characteristics. Iran's inhabitants have been heterogeneous groups of different racial, linguistic, and religious ethnicities. Especially with the emergence of nationalism and nation-state thought after the first Pahlavi, the issue of coexistence and how to manage ethnic diversity politically became important. Political thought in Iran historically has used the concept of a charismatic king to solve this problem. In this view, the basis of the monarchy's legitimacy is the king's spiritual relationship with God and the only factor that can shape spatial justice.
From another point of view, charismatic leadership was the only factor that could establish spatial justice between different ethnic groups and social classes. The first Pahlavi tried to use this discourse to create a spatial adaptation of the nation and territory and to stabilize the construction of Iran's political geography. In the Pahlavi era, nationalism was defined primarily as centered around the charismatic leadership of the Shah. In other words, the exclusive function of the charismatic leader was introduced as one of the essential factors of national solidarity in this period. This issue was reflected in Shah's preference for the homeland in the slogan "God, King, Homeland." This notion gave such legitimacy to political power that introduced it as the only factor in creating national solidarity, and any political competition with him was considered illegitimate.
Before the modern government, in the political view of landowners and tribal leaders of Iran, there was not much familiarity with a human structure called the nation. Also, in this period, due to a lack of political parties and civil institutions independent from the ruling monarchy, the government found an increasing place to construct a national identity. In this regard, the narrative of ancient Iran became the discourse of the government to build the national identity. Furthermore, in this discourse, part of the need for social solidarity is met by explaining the unique role of charismatic political leaders. This discourse justifies the charismatic king's authoritarianism to provide political legitimacy for building national identity in Iran's political geography. In this regard, in the first Pahlavi era, measures were taken to achieve this goal, such as the disarmament of nomads, promotion of national education, compulsory military service, and uniformed clothing. In the first Pahlavi discourse, hereditary monarchy, the idea of divine selection of kings, and the protection of borders and alienation from geopolitical enemies became the basis of Iranian identity.
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Authors’ Contribution
Authors contributed equally to the conceptualization and writing of the article. All of the authors approved thecontent of the manuscript and agreed on all aspects of the work declaration of competing interest none.
Conflict of Interest
Authors declared no conflict of interest.
 We are grateful to all the scientific consultants of this paper. 


Main Subjects

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