Abstract

Scholars of Persian literature approach ‘Abd al-Rahim Talebof’s Kitab-i Aḥmad (1890–1894) either as a pedagogical treatise exemplifying his stance on the importance of modern education for Iranian children or as an informative text presenting modern European-style scientific advances and discoveries to Iranians. Moreover, they look at contemporary European intellectuals and intellectual thought informing Talebof’s work, especially Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Émile, ou de L’Éducation (1763). In this way, they overlook the role of the contemporary Iranian intellectual discourse in forming Talebof’s work and thought. This article demonstrates that Talebof wrote his book in conversation with the works of both his eminent Iranian intellectuals and their European counterparts. Building upon the current scholarship, this article argues that in Kitab-i Aḥmad, Talebof, in addition to promoting his educational mission and informative goals, lays out his most developed social philosophy, in particular, his theorization of “nationality” (millīyat) or allegiance to an imagined nation. Talebof espouses the idea that Iranians need to own moral and religious commitment to a national community and posits “nationality” as the essential framework within which modern educational and sociopolitical reforms can be implemented.

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