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Dissertation about Shi'ite nationalism in Iran 1925-1979, including extensive discussion of anti-Bahá'í activity and persecutions. (Offsite.)
Dissertation for the University of Michigan.

"In Their Place":
Marking and Unmarking Shi'ism in Pahlavi Iran

by Aaron Vahid Sealy

Abstract: This dissertation reevaluates early Shi'ite nationalism in Pahlavi Iran (1925-79). It asks why it is that the Shi’ite ulama were among the Shah’s most loyal supporters during the 1953 coup that restored him to power, yet a decade later clerical activists had largely abandoned royalism and a significant number had become so alienated from the regime that they espoused an early form of Shi'ite nationalism. This problem is insufficiently addressed in the existing literature, with clerical opposition in the early 1960s often explained in terms of Shi’ism’s supposedly revolutionary nature, reaction against the government’s attempt at land reform, Khomeini’s leadership, or other factors that undervalue the historical processes that led to this shift. I argue—based on previously un-explored British and American archival documents and recently available Persian primary sources—that the clerical dissent of the early 1960s was predicated on transformations that had been occurring over the preceding two decades, especially as the result of an ongoing campaign against the Baha’i minority and changes in the British and American assessment of the utility of Shi’ism in Iran. I offer a revisionist take on the institutional history of the ulama in Iran during this period by treating the oppositional clerical culture of the 1960s as a cultural artifact and exploring the ways in which it was historically produced in the two decades between the abdication of Reza Shah and Khomeini’s emergence as a leading voice of clerical opposition.

This thesis includes the following topics: "The Bahá'ís in Iran" (pp. 16-23); "'Islam is in Danger': Anti-Bahá'ísm and the Nationalization of Islam, 1946-1954" (pp. 90-126), and "The Anti-Bahá'í Pogrom of 1955 as Object Lesson" (pp. 127-177).

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