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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEAn Ante Litteram Critique of Orientalism: The Case of Abu'l-Fadá'il-i-Gulpáyigání and E.G. Browne
AUTHOR 1Mina Yazdani
AUTHOR 2Omid Ghaemmaghami
ABSTRACTGulpaygani’s analysis of Orientalism as presented in his book Kashfu'l-Ghitá', which focused on the Cambridge scholar E.G. Browne and how his worldview prefigured that of Edward Said; colonial power relations. Link to article (offsite).
NOTES Published in the Religions special issue "The Bahá'í Faith: Doctrinal and Historical Explorations," online at, where it is also available in HTML, XML, and epub formats.
TAGSCriticism and apologetics; Edward Granville Browne; Imperialism/colonialism; Iran (documents); Kitáb-i-Nuqtatul-Kaf; Knowledge; Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani; Orientalism; Power
Abstract: Since the late 1970s, the term Orientalism has been closely associated with Edward Said (d. 2003) and his influential monograph of the same name. First published in 1978, Orientalism advanced a number of critiques about the discipline of “Oriental Studies”, its frequently condescending portrayal and depiction of the Eastern world, and the complex relationship between knowledge and power in the context of the Middle East. As revolutionary as a number of Said’s theses have been, in his critique of Orientalism and in particular his penetrating analysis of the relationship between knowledge and power, Said was not breaking entirely new ground. In fact, seven decades earlier, a voice from the Orient itself, the Persian Bahā’ī scholar Mīrzā Abu’l-Faḍā’il-i Gulpāyigānī (d. 1914), expressed a similar, albeit embryonic, critique of Orientalism. Abu’l-Faḍā’il’s analysis, presented in the opening chapters of his final book Kashfu’l-Ghiṭā’, focused on one of the foremost Orientalists of his time, the Cambridge scholar Edward Granville Browne (d. 1926). Rather than studying the extent to which Browne fits the paradigm of Orientalism (a topic some scholars have previously expressed views on), this article explores ways in which Abu’l-Faḍā’il’s critique of Browne’s study of the Orient can be viewed as a nascent prefiguration of some of the theses developed and advanced by Said decades later. Gulpāyigānī’s precedence as a Bahā’ī scholar in discerning and addressing the link between Western scholars’ knowledge production and the colonial power relations of their respective governments with the countries or areas they studied, helps correct a misconception forged about Bahā’īs. Historical narratives produced in anti-Bahā’ī polemics decades after Gulpāyigānī’s death created a master-narrative that cast Bahā’īs as agents of colonial powers, sweeping under the rug counterarguments such as those posed by Gulpāyigānī’s critique. The authors of this article have been motivated by this corrective goal.
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