Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reflections on “The Queen and I”: the Psychology of Deposed Monarchs, Iran and the Arab Spring

"The Queen and I" (2008) is a fascinating documentary that centers on the life of Farah Pahlavi, the former Empress of Iran, who currently resides in Paris, France. The documentary features in depth interviews with Pahlavi about her life, the revolution, etc. Making the film was a difficult endeavor (politically, emotionally) for the director, Nahid Persson Sarvestani, who along with her family, suffered during the Shah’s rule and after the 1979 revolution.

A portrait of a young Farah Pahlavi, taken from her personal website.
“The Queen and I” will be screening tomorrow at the Kevorkian Center and will include a discussion with Nahid Mozaffari and Arang Keshavarzian. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend attending. In case you are unable to make it to the screening tomorrow, the entire documentary is available online for a limited time.

It is important to situate the documentary as taking place before the Arab Spring. It would be interesting to see what would change about the documentary if Farah Pahalavi were to be interviewed today, especially given that the current regime in Iran has portrayed the Arab Spring as Islamic revolutions. How would her interpretation differ? Or, more generally, how would she react to the ongoing uprising in Syria?

After watching “The Queen and I” several times, I am continually struck by and intrigued by the sense of fantasy surrounding Farah Pahlavi and (to a lesser extent) the Royalist entourage she surrounds herself with. By “fantasy,” I mean a refusal to accept the impossibility of a return to monarchy combined with nostalgia for a pre-1979 Iran. Pahlavi’s personal website, which labels her “Empress” is informative to that end.  Also of interest to me: the tension between Farah’s likeable personality and the brutality of the Shah’s regime.

On a related note, other deposed monarchs worthy of discussion include Ahmed Fouad II of Egypt, who grew up in Switzerland and Ertugrul Osman (d.2009) of the Osmanli dynasty, who would technically have been the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, were it still around today.

Film brochure.

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