Marxism, Islam, and a Global History of Modernity

May 3, 2023, 12:15 pm1:15 pm
Robertson Hall - Room 001



Event Description
poster of Marxism, Islam, and a Global History of Modernity

In a May 1984 televised appearance that followed months of imprisonment and torture, Ehsan Tabari (1917-1989), the leading theoretician of the Marxist Tudeh Party, recanted Marxism and announced his conversion to Islam. In two subsequent books, The Crooked Road: Memoirs from the Tudeh Party (1984), and The Epistemology and Evaluation of Marxism (1989), Tabari insisted on Islam’s superiority over Marxism. While acknowledging the particular context of these public recantations, some scholars of modern Iran have nevertheless argued that Tabari’s post-1984 views came, not as a sudden reversal, but as the outcome of long-term tendencies in his thought. Tabari’s earlier writings on Islamic mysticism and Islamic philosophy are thus read in the light of his later purported “return to Islam” and seen as evidence of his disillusionment with and deviation from orthodox Marxism. In this presentation, Siavash Saffari reconsiders Tabari’s sustained and extensive engagements with Islamic philosophy and mysticism, situating Tabari's work in conversation with other Marxist interventions on the non-European trajectories of dialectical materialism.

Siavash Saffari is associate professor of West Asian Studies at Seoul National University. He works on the intersection of Islam and political thought in modern and contemporary contexts. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Alberta in 2013, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University between 2014 and 2016. He is the author of Beyond Shariati: Modernity, Cosmopolitanism and Islam in Iranian Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2017).