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

Document Type : Research Paper


Associated Prof., Dep. of Political Geography, University of Yazd



Extended Abstract


The concept of governmentality was first proposed by Michel Foucault in 1978; involves the study of 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 in a certain point of history. In this regard, one of the important thematic in the concept of governmentality framework; is understanding how are constructed the nationalism components by governance discourses role.? in other words, nationalism can be reconstructed at any point of time by historical political discourses. In fact, national identity construction is discourse processes product and more precisely, it is part of discourse conflicts. Thus, national identity is not merely natural aspect, but is artificial phenomenon that created over time by political power and so, it is established as collective memory and has 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 nationalism discourse elements in the political sovereignty functioning for construction of political geography of Iran in the first Pahlavi era.


in this article has been attempted with rely on interpretive methods and using the theoretical theme of discourse governmentality; explain how build 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 has been defined in the framework of Foucault's view, based on theoretical documents.

Results and discussion

Discourse analysis of national identity construction indicate that, national identity construction in the first Pahlavi era was organized based on the ancient Iranian nationalism discourse for solidarity of ethnic groups and social classes. in other words, this discourse highlighted the ancient Iran history for 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 and 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" with reference to 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 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 in the form of a ruling discourse. Hence, suspicion to colonial powers in the first Pahlavi era was used as a tool to form a large army to counter foreign conspiracies and build national solidarity. In this discourse for building national identity was often used; Reading historical myths, texts and inscriptions of ancient Iran to confirm the righteous king characteristics.

The different inhabitants of Iran have been heterogeneous group of different racial, linguistic, 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 an important issue. Political thought in Iran historically has used the concept of a charismatic king to solve this problem. In this view, the basis of the legitimacy of the monarchy is the king's spiritual relationship with God and it is the only factor that can shape the spatial justice.

From another side, the Farah Izadi 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 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 important national solidarity factors in this period. This issue was clearly reflected in the Shah's preference for the homeland in the slogan "God, King, Homeland". This notion gave such legitimacy to political power that introduced it as 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 lake of political parties and civil institutions independent from the ruling monarchy; as a result, government found increasing place for construction the national identity. In this regard, narrative of ancient Iran became the discourse of the government to build the national identity. Also 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, for achieving this goal; in the first Pahlavi era, were taken measures such as disarmament of nomads, promotion of national education, compulsory military service and Uniformed clothing. In the first Pahlavi discourse, Factors such as 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.


Main Subjects

Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 22 February 2023
  • Receive Date: 19 March 2021
  • Revise Date: 15 February 2023
  • Accept Date: 22 February 2023