This essay considers the overlap between ʿAli Shari’ati’s ethical reflections and his discussion of insurrectionary violence. Davari argues that the earlier lectures discussing bāzgasht be khishtan (a return to self) formed the conceptual foundation for his advocacy of shahādat (martyrdom) as a model of self-formation. These intellectual tendencies were rooted in a tradition of anticolonial and insurgent political thought, exemplified in Shari’ati’s case by an engagement with the writings of Frantz Fanon. Shari’ati’s borrowing of Fanon’s notions of return and decolonial violence involved alterations within a shared framework. Most notably, Shari’ati emphasized the prospect of a return to a religious self, redefined as political ethics. Whereas Fanon privileged an embodied experience of racialization as the most fundamental constraining and enabling factor in the realization of a new humanism, Shari’ati’s presentation of the “new man” as shahid involved a hermeneutic relationship with a collective self imagined across historical time. In Shari’ati’s hands, Fanon’s eschewal of history became an engagement with historical memory in the present tense. In the process, the body was reimagined as that which dies, its physical death marking the future where Fanon’s new man was said to be found. The shahid’s choosing to die—as opposed to the colonized’s need to kill the colonizer—led to the revision of two central conclusions pertaining to the process of decolonization: the discussion of means as ends, and the critique of a hierarchical relationship between revolutionary leaders and the led.
A Return to Which Self?: ʿAli Shari’ati and Frantz Fanon on the Political Ethics of Insurrectionary Violence
Arash Davari; A Return to Which Self?: ʿAli Shari’ati and Frantz Fanon on the Political Ethics of Insurrectionary Violence. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2014; 34 (1): 86–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2648587
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