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Gharbzadegi (Persian : غرب‌زدگی) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as ‘Westernized’, ‘West-struck-ness’ [1] , ‘Westoxification’, ‘Westitis’, ‘Euromania’, or ‘Occidentosis’. [2] It is used to refer to the loss of Iranian cultural identity through the adoption and imitation of Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture; through the transformation of Iran into a passive market for Western goods and a pawn in Western geopolitics.[ citation needed ]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.

Western culture Norms, values and political systems originating in Europe

Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are European. Western culture has its roots in Greco-Roman culture from before 800 B.C.E..


The phrase was first coined by Ahmad Fardid, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, in the 1940s. it gained common usage following the clandestine publication in 1962 of the book Occidentosis: A Plague from the West by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad. Fardid's definition of the term as referring to the hegemony of ancient Greek philosophy, differed from its later usage as popularised by Al-e Ahmad. [3]

Ahmad Fardid Iranian philosopher

Seyyed Ahmad Fardid, born Ahmad Mahini Yazdi, was a prominent Iranian philosopher and an inspiring and dedicated professor of Tehran University. He is considered to be among the philosophical ideologues of the Islamic government of Iran which came to power in 1979. Fardid was under the influence of Martin Heidegger, the influential German philosopher, whom he considered "the only Western philosopher who understood the world and the only philosopher whose insights were congruent with the principles of the Islamic Republic. These two figures, Khomeini and Heidegger, helped Fardid argue his position." What he decried was the anthropocentrism and rationalism brought by classical Greece, replacing the authority of God and faith with human reason, and in that regard he also criticized Islamic philosophers like al Farabi and Mulla Sadra for having absorbed Greek philosophy.

University of Tehran university in Iran

University of Tehran is the oldest modern university located in Tehran, Iran. It is also one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East. Based on its historical, socio-cultural, and political pedigree, as well as its research and teaching profile, UT has been nicknamed "The mother university of Iran". It has been ranked as one of the best universities in the Middle East in national and international rankings and among the top universities in the world. It is also the premier knowledge producing institute among all OIC countries. The university offers 111 bachelor's degree programs, 177 master's degree programs, and 156 Ph.D. programs. Many of the departments were absorbed into the University of Tehran from the Dar al-Funun established in 1851 and the Tehran School of Political Sciences established in 1899.

Jalal Al-e-Ahmad writer, thinker, and social and political critic.

Seyyed Jalal Al-e-Ahmad was a prominent Iranian novelist, short-story writer, translator, philosopher, socio-political critic, sociologist as well as an anthropologist who was "one of the earliest and most prominent of contemporary Iranian ethnographers". He popularized the term gharbzadegi – variously translated in English as "westernstruck", "westoxification", and "Occidentosis" –, producing a holistic ideological critique of the West "which combined strong themes of Frantz Fanon and Marx".

Al-e Ahmed's idea

Al-e Ahmed describes Iranian behavior in the twentieth century as being "Weststruck." The word was play on the dual meaning of "stricken" in Persian, which meant to be afflicted with a disease or to be stung by an insect, or to be infatuated and bedazzled. [4] "I say that gharbzadegi is like cholera [or] frostbite. But no. It's at least as bad as sawflies in the wheat fields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within. There's a healthy skin in places, but it's only a skin, just like the shell of a cicada on a tree." [4]

Cholera Bacterial infection of the small intestine

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms may range from none, to mild, to severe. The classic symptom is large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This may result in sunken eyes, cold skin, decreased skin elasticity, and wrinkling of the hands and feet. Dehydration can cause the skin to turn bluish. Symptoms start two hours to five days after exposure.

Frostbite medical condition where localized damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to freezing

Frostbite occurs when exposure to low temperatures causes freezing of the skin or other tissues. The initial symptom is typically numbness. This may be followed by clumsiness with a white or bluish color to the skin. Swelling or blistering may occur following treatment. The hands, feet, and face are most commonly affected. Complications may include hypothermia or compartment syndrome.

Sawfly suborder of insects

Sawflies are the insects of the suborder Symphyta within the order Hymenoptera alongside ants, bees and wasps. The common name comes from the saw-like appearance of the ovipositor, which the females use to cut into the plants where they lay their eggs. The name is associated especially with the Tenthredinoidea, by far the largest superfamily, with about 7,000 known species; in the entire suborder, there are 8,000 described species in more than 800 genera. The suborder Symphyta is paraphyletic, consisting of several basal groups within the order Hymenoptera. Symphyta includes all the species within Hymenoptera that are not wasps or the descendants of wasps.

Al-e Ahmad argued that Iran must gain control over machines and become a producer rather than a consumer, even though once having overcome Weststruckness it will face a new malady - also western - that of 'machinestruckness'. "The soul of this devil 'the machine' [must be] bottled up and brought out at our disposal ... [The Iranian people] must not be at the service of machines, trapped by them, since the machine is a means not an end." [5]

Industrialisation period of social and economic change from agrarian to industrial society

Industrialisation is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society, involving the extensive re-organisation of an economy for the purpose of manufacturing.

The higher productivity of the foreign machines had devastated Iran's native handicrafts and turned Iran into an unproductive consumption economy. "These cities are just flea markets hawking European manufactured goods ... [In] no time at all instead of cities and villages we'll have heaps of dilapidated machines all over the country, all of them exactly like American 'junkyards' and every one as big as Tehran." [5]

Tehran Capital and largest city of Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.7 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 24th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

The world market and global divide between rich and poor created by the machine - "one the constructors" of machines "and the other the consumers" - had superseded Marxist class analysis. [5]

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Class conflict tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests

Class conflict is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society consequent to socio-economic competition among the social classes. In the political and economic philosophies of Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, class struggle is a central tenet and a practical means for effecting radical social and political changes for the social majority.

Al-e Ahmad believed the one element of Iranian life uninfected by gharbzadegi was religion. Twelver Shi'i Islam in Iran had authenticity and the ability to move people. [6]

Discourse of authenticity

Ali Mirsepasi believes that Al-e Ahmad is concerned with the discourse of authenticity along with Shariati. According to Mirsepasi, Al-e Ahmad extended his critiques of the hegemonic power of west. The critique is centered on the concept of westoxication with which Al-e Ahmad attacks secular intellectuals. He believes that these intellectuals are not able to effectively construct an authentically Iranian modernity. For that purpose, he posed the concept of “return” to an Islamic culture which is authentic at the same time. Al-e Ahmad believed that avoiding the homogenizing and alienating forces of Western modernity it is necessary to return to the roots of Islamic culture. Of course this discourse was a few complicated politically. In fact, Al-e Ahmad wanted to reimagine modernity with Iranian-Islamic tradition. [7]


The phrase was revived after the Iranian Revolution as the Islamic Republic sought to legitimize its campaign of nationalization and Ruhollah Khomeini's push for "self-sufficiency".

"Gharbzadegi" is the title of a political song by British avant-garde musician Robert Wyatt, which appears on Old Rottenhat (Rough Trade, 1985) and can also be heard on the tribute LP Soupsongs Live: The Music of Robert Wyatt. [8]


"Gharbzadegi" has now been superseded by a new term commonly used in reference to China's growing presence in Iran. Called "Sharqzadegi", the new term is classed as fear of China's dominance.

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  1. Al-e-Ahmad 1982.
  2. Moghadam 2003, p. 158.
  3. Tavakoli-Targhi 2000, p. 566.
  4. 1 2 Mottahedeh 2014, p. 296.
  5. 1 2 3 Mottahedeh 2014, p. 298.
  6. Mottahedeh 2014, p. 299-300.
  7. Ali Mirsepasi (2000). intellectual discourse and the politics of modernization. Cambridge University. p. 96. ISBN   0521650003.
  8. Rachel Carroll, Adam Hansen (2016). Litpop: Writing and Popular Music. Routledge. p. 59. ISBN   131710420X.

Works cited