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Exile and the Nation

Exile and the Nation
The Parsi Community of India and the Making of Modern Iran

Connecting oft-disparate fields, this book explores the Zoroastrian diaspora living in India and its role in using antiquity to bolster twentieth-century Iranian nationalism.

June 2020
328 pages | 6 x 9 | 27 b&w photos, 9 b&w illus., and 1 b&w map |

In the aftermath of the seventh-century Islamic conquest of Iran, Zoroastrians departed for India. Known as the Parsis, they slowly lost contact with their ancestral land until the nineteenth century, when steam-powered sea travel, the increased circulation of Zoroastrian-themed books, and the philanthropic efforts of Parsi benefactors sparked a new era of interaction between the two groups.

Tracing the cultural and intellectual exchange between Iranian nationalists and the Parsi community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Exile and the Nation shows how this interchange led to the collective reimagining of Parsi and Iranian national identity—and the influence of antiquity on modern Iranian nationalism, which previously rested solely on European forms of thought. Iranian nationalism, Afshin Marashi argues, was also the byproduct of the complex history resulting from the demise of the early modern Persianate cultural system, as well as one of the many cultural heterodoxies produced within the Indian Ocean world. Crossing the boundaries of numerous fields of study, this book reframes Iranian nationalism within the context of the connected, transnational, and global history of the modern era.

  • Note on Transliteration and Dates
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. To Bombay and Back: Arbab Kaykhosrow Shahrokh and the Reinvention of Iranian Zoroastrianism
  • Chapter 2. Patron and Patriot: Dinshah J. Irani, Parsi Philanthropy, and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture
  • Chapter 3. Imagining Hafez: Rabindranath Tagore in Iran, 1932
  • Chapter 4. Ebrahim Purdavud and His Interlocutors: Parsi Patronage and the Making of the Vernacular Avesta
  • Chapter 5. Sword of Freedom: Abdulrahman Saif Azad and Interwar Iranian Nationalism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Afshin Marashi is Farzaneh Family Professor of Modern Iranian History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Nationalizing Iran: Culture, Power, and the State, 1870–1940 and the coeditor of Rethinking Iranian Nationalism and Modernity.


“Absolutely masterful. This is a wonderful and lucid weaving together of many disparate elements. Marashi never disappoints in his recounting of an engaging story, one that becomes all the richer for his ability to use it to illustrate cultural and intellectual diversity. He makes a convincing case for the centrality of Iranian ideas of nation constructed vis-à-vis the contemporary Parsi community in Iran, recognizing that this relationship was complex and multidirectional. Marashi pioneers a model of moving away from 'area studies' and nation as a boundary and into larger intellectual and cultural areas of conversation. Exile and the Nation is not a simplistic account of influence, but rather an exploration of a variety of intellectual roads—those taken and those avoided.”
Monica M. Ringer, author of Pious Citizens: Reforming Zoroastriansim in India and Iran

“With this work, Marashi once again demonstrates that he is one of the most innovative and theoretically astute historians of Iran. The book takes a South-South perspective, which currently hardly exists in Iranian studies. His intuition that Iranian intellectuals in this period were not stuck in an exclusively East-West relationship proved to be a ground-breaking and fruitful avenue for research, and thus Exile and the Nation is long overdue.”
Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, author of The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation