Iranian academics embrace U.S. sociologist in rare visit

n13-iconThe Washington Post reports: The presence of a prominent American scholar on Iranian university campuses this week, and the wide and positive reception he is receiving, is a sign that authorities here are attempting to fulfill promises of more openness in academia.

On Sunday, Tehran University’s School of Social Sciences hosted an event discussing the theory and work of Immanuel Wallerstein, a well-known critic of capitalism, best known for his world-systems analysis and his views about the decline of major powers, including the United States.

“I’m not sure what attracts people to my work. Maybe it’s that I’m an American, I say things that Americans don’t usually say and I have an analysis which seems to resonate in a lot of countries,” the 84-year-old Wallerstein said in an interview Monday.

Hundreds of students and professors crammed into the campus’ largest auditorium to hear Wallerstein’s remarks, which were preceded by discussions of his work by top Iranian sociologists, almost all of them delivered in English, a rarity in Iran.

“No government or social movement can be taken seriously if it is not addressing the issues of today,” Wallerstein told the audience toward the end of his hour-long speech, which at times dealt with topics that are often considered taboo in the Islamic republic, including women’s rights and corruption.

Wallerstein also spoke at Iran’s Centre for Strategic Studies, a think tank co-founded by Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. [Continue reading…]

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