Gharbzadegi (Persian: غربزدگی) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as ‘Westernized’, ‘West-struck-ness’, ‘Westoxification’, ‘Westitis’, ‘Euromania’, or ‘Occidentosis’. 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.
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.
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. "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."
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."
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."
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.
Western popular culture
"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.
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- Biparva, Ebrahim; Boroujerdi, Mehrzad (Winter 1998). "Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism". International Migration Review. 32 (4): 1090. doi:10.2307/2547692.
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- Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Occidentosis: A Plague from the West (Gharbzadegi), translated by R. Campbell. Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1983.
- Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Weststruckness (Gharbzadegi), translated by John Green and Ahmad Alizadeh. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1997.
- Hanson, Brad (29 January 2009). "The "Westoxication" of Iran: Depictions and Reactions of Behrangi, Āl-e Ahmad, and Shari ati". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 15 (01): 1–23. doi:10.1017/s0020743800052387.