Al-e Ahmad, Guardianship, and the Critique of Colonial Sovereignty

Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, Eskandar and Yadgar, Yaacov. 2022. Al-e Ahmad, Guardianship, and the Critique of Colonial Sovereignty. Constellations. An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, 29(1), pp. 19-33. ISSN 1351-0487 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this article we seek to think with and against the Iranian intellectual and dissident, Jalal Al-e Ahmad (d. 1969), and his exploration of the concept of velāyat in the context of his 1963 visit to Israel/Palestine. Through his idiosyncratic use of the term and its cognates, well-established in Islamic mysticism, Shiʿi theology and jurisprudence, he pursues a decolonial critique of the political theology of sovereignty. By placing Al-e Ahmad’s thought in relation to broader debates in the history of political thought vis-à-vis the “extraordinary” character of political foundings, sovereignty and statelessness, and their complex interrelationship, we contend that in addition to delineating, what he refers to, as the “guardianship state”, Al-e Ahmad pursues a critique of the latter as a specific kind of modern sovereign power, which exceeds, but is inextricably bound up with the nation-state and its colonial forms. In contradistinction to this state-form, Al-e Ahmad espouses a distinct kind of being-together and form of life, namely, a being-in-common (ejtemāʿ), which refuses those iterations of difference e.g. national/foreigner, majority/minority, civilized/barbarian that have emerged as staples of the modern nation-state and capitalist modernity. We seek to bring out these aspects of Al-e Ahmad’s thought in relation to Arendt’s reflections on freedom and plurality.

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Iran, Islam, Shi'ism, constituent power, sovereignty, colonialism, postcolonialism, plurality

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28 October 2021Accepted
2 February 2022Published Online
March 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

29 Oct 2021 10:11

Last Modified:

02 Feb 2024 02:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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