Advertisement

Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 459–474 | Cite as

Islamic rule and the pre-Islamic blessing, the “homecoming” of the Cyrus Cylinder

  • Manuchehr SanadjianEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper looks at the spectacle raised in Iran of the “homecoming” of the Cyrus Charter loaned from the British Museum for a public display in 2010. The Charter was an inscription on a clay cylinder of the proclamations by the ancient Persian king in the wake of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC. The temporary rehabilitation of the pre-Islamic relic under Islamic rule at “home” renewed its global status as the world’s first “charter” of human rights. The “return” of the Charter brought about a provisional alteration in the relationship between the ruled and their Muslim rulers in Iran. It entailed a partial recognition by the rulers of the ruled’s heterogeneous subjectivity previously ignored in the official representation of Iranian identity as homogeneously Islamic. The adjustment gave rise to the popular reception of the Charter at “home” and its collective appropriation as a national asset. Drawing on the Charter’s newly formed national constituency, the Muslim rulers invoked Cyrus’ recognition of particularized subjectivity of the ruled in the periphery of his kingdom to demand tolerance for otherness in the international domain. The invoked duality of rule sanctioned by Cyrus served the Muslim rulers in Iran to represent themselves as the object of the ancient king’s tolerant rule abroad whilst exercising their crushing agency as the subject of power at home. Thus, the precedent set in the Charter was harnessed by the Islamic government to the articulation of the national and the international as exclusive domains of power and rights. The distance between “home” and “abroad” inserted between the two domains precluded the encounter between power and rights—the rulers versus the ruled—out of which politics is created. The neutralized relationship between the ruled and their rulers at home and the simultaneous reactivation of the encounter between power and rights abroad served a double purpose for the Islamic regime. It relativized the regime’s gross violation of the rights of Iranians to be “the other” at home whilst making their grievances absolute against outsiders for not tolerating their otherness including the desire to be a nuclear power. The Charter’s homecoming is looked at as the latest attempt to resolve the absolute antagonism between the Republic—the home of Islamic Truth—and democracy—the profane domain of opinions—that has bedevilled the Islamic state since its birth. Unlike the previous, characteristically bloody attempts that left so many victims behind, the invoked image of Cyrus required the Islamic state to re-identify itself as the victim of unequal international relations.

Keywords

Iran Cyrus Cylinder Islamic rule 

Notes

Acknowledgment

My special thanks to Pam for her criticism and encouragement.

References

  1. Balibar, E. 1994. “Rights of man” and “rights of the citizen”: The modern dialectic of equality and freedom. In Masses, classes, ideas, ed. E. Balibar, 39–59. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, T. 1994. The Exhibitionary Complex. In Culture/power/history, a reader in contemporary social theory, eds. N.B. Dirks, G. Eley, and S.B. Ortner, 123–154. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boyce, M. 1988. The religion of cyrus the great. In Achaemenid history III, eds. A. Kuhrt and H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, 15–31. Leiden: Method and Theory.Google Scholar
  4. Cyrus the Great’ Cylinder, The World’s First Charter of the Human Rights transliteraTRANSLITERATION and TRANSLATION OF THE TEXT. Retrieved from http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/History/hakhamaneshian/Cyrus-the-great/cyrus_cylinder_complete.htm.
  5. Hegel, G.W.F. 1967. Philosophy of right. With notes by (trans: Knox, T.M.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Hobsbawm, E. 1983. Introduction: Inventing tradition. In The invention of tradition, eds. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, 1–14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Lefort, C. 1984. Politics and human rights. In The political forms of modern society: Bureaucracy, democracy, totalitarianism, ed. C. Lefort, 239–272. Edited and introduced by John B. Thompson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Marx, K. 1843/1975. On the Jewish question. In Karl Marx: Early writings, introduced by Lucio Colletti, 211–241. Harmondsworth/London: Penguin Books/New Left Review.Google Scholar
  9. Quotes from Ayatollah Khomeini. 2003. Collected by J. Matini and translated by Farhad Mafie, July 25, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.iran-heritage.org/interestgroups/government-article2.htm.
  10. Ranciere, J. 1995. On the shores of politics (trans: Liz Heron). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  11. Sanadjian, M. 1996. A public flogging in South-Western Iran: Juridical rule, abolition of legality and local resistance. In Inside and outside the law, ed. O. Harris, 157–183. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Sanadjian, M. 2008. Nuclear fetishism, the fear of the ‘Islamic’ bomb and national identity in Iran. Social Identities 14(1): 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Sanadjian, M. 2010a. Citizenship, ‘rubbished’ dissidents and local restoration of the dead—The execution of Luri political activists in south western Iran. Social Identities 16(2): 197–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Sanadjian, M. 2010b. A virtual game and the actual Islamic rule: The recent presidential election in Iran. Dialectical Anthropology 34: 13–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sanadjian, M. 2011. Diversity, rights or privileges? Denunciation of multiculturalism, ‘political correctness’ and anti-racism of the ex-commander of Scotland Yard Ali Dizaei, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  16. Schmitt, C. 1996. The concept of the political. Expanded edition, Translated with an Introduction by George Schwab. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Turner. V. 1974. Dramas, fields, and metaphors. Symbolic action in human society. Ithica-London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  18. 2500 Years of Iranian Monarchy Celebrations in Persepolis 1971, 28 March, 2009—zoroastriansnet. http://zoroastrians.net/2009/03/28/2500-years-of-iranian-monarchy-celebrations-in-persepolis-1971/

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester UniversityManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations