This thesis explores a philosophical interpretation of velayat-e faqih, by Reza Davari Ardakani, a professor at the University of Tehran’s Department of Philosophy since 1968, and a public intellectual of consequence. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s theory of state, velayat-e faqih, has generally been constructed and defended using Shia jurisprudential reasoning, projecting an Irano-Islamic national identity. While this methodology has proven sufficient among traditional religious Iranians, continuing modernizing forces within and liberal Western forces outside of Iran pressure its theocratic underpinnings and hence its appeal to other Iranians. A lesser-known interpretation of velayat-e faqih, using both Western and Islamic philosophical methodologies, has existed within select post-revolutionary Iranian academic and intellectual circles. This thesis examines the training, philosophy and ideology of its most influential advocate, Reza Davari Ardakani, within the context of Iranian modernization, the construction of a cultural identity and the influence of modern higher education. In this thesis, I argue that Iran’s state institutions, in particular the University of Tehran, serve as propagating sites of Iranian identity. More significantly, these sites and the Iranian intellectuals who create and train within them respond to the complex forces of tradition and modernity, employing Iranian, Islamic, and Western methods and practices in the creation of hybrid identities. Thus, Davari’s philosophical interpretation of velayat-e faqih is best understood as the latest reiteration in the conciliatory practices of hybrid identity production of a modernizing Iran.
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Thesis advisor: MacLean, Derryl
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