York-Noor visiting chair examines the relevancy of Gandhi today

The Gandhian Moment book cover

Is Gandhi still relevant and has his stature as an extraordinarily innovative political thinker been obscured by his achievements and notoriety? Professor Ramin Jahanbegloo, the York-Noor Visiting Chair in Islamic Studies at York University and author of a forthcoming book on this historic leader, will discuss the relevancy of Gandhi at The Gandhian Moment Book cover an upcoming talk.

“People Power, Non-Violence and Resistance: Is Gandhi Still Relevant?” will take place Monday, Nov.19 at 2:30 pm at 764S Ross Building, Keele campus.

In his new book, The Gandhian Moment (Harvard University Press), Jahanbegloo argues that Gandhi’s practical achievements – becoming the father of Indian independence and a historic leader worldwide, as well as an inspiration for nonviolent protest everywhere – has obscured the fact that he was also an extraordinarily innovative political thinker.

Its foreword is by the Dalai Lama, who Jahanbegloo has met about six times and “each time I have learned more from Him on nonviolence, Buddhism and the philosophy of compassion. I believe he is the living expression of the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence in today’s world.” The author believes the Dalai Lama “adds a new dimension to the relevance of the Gandhian Moment in our world”.

The book is the result of some 20 years of work on Gandhian philosophy, says Jahanbegloo. “I was eager not to repeat a new biography, but to concentrate on Gandhi as an important political theorist who is a profound analyst of Ramin Jahanbegloo meets with the Dalai Lamamodern theory of sovereignty and an Asian architect of radical democratic theory.”

Ramin Jahanbegloo meets with the Dalai Lama

Winner of the Peace Prize from the United Nations Association in Spain (2009) for his work in promoting dialogue between cultures and his advocacy for non-violence, Jahanbegloo shows how Gandhi’s ideas shaped political protest from 1960s America to the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond. Gandhi’s work has motivated a myriad of famous people from Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela to unheralded Muslim activists Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

“This book focuses on the role played by Gandhian nonviolent theory in the process of
democratisation in the past 50 years,” says Jahanbegloo, a professor in York’s Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who is teaching a course on contemporary Iran. “We can read Ramin Jahanbegloomore about the Gandhian foundations of the Black American civil rights movement, anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, the save Tibet movement and the nonviolent movement in Burma.”

Ramin Jahanbegloo

As for relevancy, Jahanbegloo argues Gandhi’s ideas and reliance on the power of nonviolence to challenge state sovereignty and domination as a way toward change is just as relevant today.

Jahanbegloo has taught at the Academy of Philosophy in Tehran, the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, the Department of Contemporary Studies of the Cultural Research Centre in Tehran and, from 2006-2007 was Rajni Kothari Chair for Democracy at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, India.

His 25 books in English, French and Persian include Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity (Lexington Books, 2004); India Revisited: Conversations on Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 2007); The Clash of Intolerances (Har-Anand, 2007); The Spirit of India (Penguin, 2008); Beyond Violence (Har-Anand, 2008); India Analysed (Oxford University Press, 2009); Talking Politics (Oxford University Press, 2010); Civil Society and Democracy in Iran (Lexington Press, 2011).

His course at York will explore politics in contemporary Iran and addresses open questions in the relationship between the state and civil society, and the tension between the republican principle and theocratic sovereignty in Iran. It has three interrelated goals: 1) to make students familiar with the basic aspects of contemporary Iranian politics, 2) to provide them with analytical tools and knowledge for an in-depth understanding of the present debates on Iran’s nuclear issue, and 3) to generate theoretical insight into the question of how modern politics have been perceived and practiced in Iran from the past 50 years.

For more information about the book, visit the Harvard University Press website.