Friday 5 October 2018

Dariush Shayegan (1935-2018): The real initiator of the Dialogue of Civilizations

In 2000, the then president of the  Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, surprised friend and foe by launching the Dialogue of Civilizations initiative, when addressing the UN's General Assembly. Clearly intended as a counter narrative to the 'Clash of Civilizations' Thesis which had by then begun to dominate the discourse on post-Cold War world order, its roots can actually be traced to another Iranian, who passed away on 22 March 2018.
Dariush Shayegan
The philosopher Dariush Shayegan, of mixed Persian and Georgian parentage and educated at a British boarding school, before switching to a Francophone university education in philosophy, Sanskrit and Asian religions, brought with him the cosmopolitan disposition and intellectual outlook to explore the avenue of intercivilizational dialogue in late 1970s-Iran. When this trajectory was cut short by the revolution of 1979 and subsequent establishment of the Islamic republic, Shayegan returned to Paris to continue researching and teaching philosophy and Asian religions in self-imposed exile, until again moving back to Iran in 1991. As observed by Stefan Weidner in his obituary of Shayegan:

His thinking was worlds apart from the fashionable, post-colonial theory that rejects the cultural and religious depths of colonised societies. [...] Paradoxically, it was in the West itself – where the question as to the role of tradition and spirituality in the face of materialism and secularism had been posed at a much earlier stage – that Shayegan found the best answers. 

Click here to read the full obituary.

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