11am, 2nd August 2023
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
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Heritage diplomacy and soft power competition between Iran and Turkey: competing claims over Nowruz and Rumi
In this paper, we examine the use of intangible cultural heritage as a vehicle for soft power in the service of geostrategic competitions between Iran and Turkey—two regional powers in West Asia. We focus on two significant trans-regional cases of intangible cultural heritage, namely, Nowruz, a celebration that has evolved through millennia to become Persian New Year but is subsequently claimed by Turkey, and the thirteenth century mystic poet Rumi who wrote in Persian and, while born in Balkh (Afghanistan), migrated to the city of Konya in southern Turkey where his present day shrine and museum are located. Drawing on theories in political science and heritage diplomacy, and a host of sources in Persian, Turkish, and Azerbaijani, we demonstrate how heritage is mobilised concurrently as a nation-building device and a tool for soft power in international relations.
Ali Mozaffari, PhD, is Australian Research Council (DECRA) Fellow and Senior Fellow with the Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University, Australia. His current research interests include geopolitics of the past, culture and the built environment with a specific focus on West Asia. His publications include Heritage Movements in Asia: Cultural Heritage Activism, Politics, and Identity (edited volume with Tod Jones, Berghahn 2020), Development, architecture and the formation of heritage in late-twentieth century Iran: A vital past (Manchester University Press 2020), World Heritage in Iran; Perspectives on Pasargadae (Routledge 2016), and Forming National Identity in Iran: The Idea of Homeland Derived from Ancient Persian and Islamic Imaginations of Place (IB Tauris 2014). Mozaffari is the founding co-editor of Berghahn’s series Explorations in Heritage Studies.
Also involved in the research but not speaking is Dr. Ali Akbar, a Research Fellow with the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University and Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where he received his PhD in Islamic Studies. He is an expert in the fields of Islamic studies and Middle Eastern politics as well as Iranian politics.