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Gharbzadegi (Persian: غربزدگی‎‎) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as "Westoxification," "West-struck-ness"[1] "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]

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 Greek philosophy, differed from its later usage as popularised by Al-e Ahmad.[3]

Al-e Ahmed's idea[edit]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6]

Al-e Ahmad believed the one element of Iranian life uninfected by ‘’gharbzadegi’’ was religion. Shia Islam in Iran had authenticity and the ability to move people.[7]


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

Western popular culture[edit]

"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" (Jazzprint UK, 2005).


"Gharbzadegi" has now been superseded by a new term commonly used in reference to China's growing presence of Iran.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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gharbzadegi, Volume 1982, Part 2
  2. ^ " Modernizing women: gender and social change in the Middle East By Valentine M. Moghadam
  3. ^ Tavakoli-Targhi, Mohamad (200). "Review: Merzhad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism". International Journal of Middle East Studies 32: 566. 
  4. ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.296
  5. ^ Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, (1985, 2000), p.296
  6. ^ a b c Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, (1985, 2000), p.298
  7. ^ Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, (1985, 2000), p.299-300


  • Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Occidentosis: A Plague from the West (Gharbzadegi), translated by R. Campbell. Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1983.
  • Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Plagued by the West (Gharbzadegi), translated by Paul Sprachman. Delmor, NY: Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia University, 1982.
  • Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Weststruckness (Gharbzadegi), translated by John Green and Ahmad Alizadeh. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1997.
  • Hanson, Brad (February 1983), "The "Westoxication" of Iran: Depictions and Reactions of Behrangi, al-e Ahmad, and Shariati", International Journal of Middle East Studies 15: 1–23, doi:10.1017/s0020743800052387