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U.S. Imperial Tehran in Exile: Reza Pahlavi in the CIA’s Northern Virginia Suburbs

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Abstract:

For generations of the shahs’ rule in Iran, their places of vacation and exile had been cities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, often shadowed by the British Empire. In 1985, Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the first Shah born during the U.S. imperial epoch in Iran, moved to the exurb of Great Falls, Virginia. Pahlavi’s arrival in Northern Virginia wasn’t simply a search for a nice place to live. It was a homecoming, amidst people who had built the physical and cultural space of Northern Virginia and Iran since 1950. The Crown Prince designed a house for himself four miles down the street from the CIA headquarters, at a time when the agency was funding his political activities and plotting to return him to his father’s throne. Taking up both the conference theme of the “chain” and geographer Doreen Massey’s concept of space not as the flat, the essential and the fixed, but as the shifting meeting place of manifold “stories-so-far,” this paper reinterprets Pahlavi’s inhabitance of the suburbs of Northern Virginia as both a reflection of and testimony to the dense, deeply engrained affective world of U.S. empire in the surrounding landscape.

The Crown Prince’s house was the symbolic center of a lifeworld stretching for only a few miles, yet one which included close friends of the shah’s family, key CIA agents who steered the 1953 coup, American emissaries who helped run the White Revolution, advisers who trained the shah’s secret police, and elite Americans who frequented and fundamentally shaped Iran’s cultural and social life during Reza Pahlavi’s childhood. To recover these intimate linkages, the paper uses memoirs of the Pahlavi family, land-use records, building permits and site plans. But the bulk of the argument builds on the sixteen boxes of a little-studied county court case in which the Crown Prince and one of his family’s longtime confidants and advisers, Ahmad Ansari, battled each other for more than a decade over stolen funds and broken promises of trust and guardianship. Northern Virginia’s suburban trope of the family squabble came to define the Crown Prince’s government in exile, producing an allegorical second fall of the shah, the prelude to his resurgence in popularity in the 2000s. The case illustrates how the participants imagined U.S. imperial Tehran and U.S. imperial Tehran in Northern Virginia as intertwined. Both sides, meanwhile, claimed Northern Virginia’s weight as a transnational geopolitical space as a base to win affections and maintain authority in an exile community extending from California to London to Paris.

The paper examines these complex relationships to display how U.S. empire folds itself into everyday American domestic space and how political figures use the space of the homefront to conjure international authority and recover historical memories blunted by discrete categories such as “the American suburb” and “U.S. foreign policy.” The paper also argues that these relationships can only be understood through an analysis using a wide spatial frame, disrespectful of boundaries, predicated on linkages, and stretching over deep periods of time.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Friedman, Andrew. "U.S. Imperial Tehran in Exile: Reza Pahlavi in the CIA’s Northern Virginia Suburbs" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX, <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417245_index.html>

APA Citation:

Friedman, A. "U.S. Imperial Tehran in Exile: Reza Pahlavi in the CIA’s Northern Virginia Suburbs" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417245_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: For generations of the shahs’ rule in Iran, their places of vacation and exile had been cities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, often shadowed by the British Empire. In 1985, Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the first Shah born during the U.S. imperial epoch in Iran, moved to the exurb of Great Falls, Virginia. Pahlavi’s arrival in Northern Virginia wasn’t simply a search for a nice place to live. It was a homecoming, amidst people who had built the physical and cultural space of Northern Virginia and Iran since 1950. The Crown Prince designed a house for himself four miles down the street from the CIA headquarters, at a time when the agency was funding his political activities and plotting to return him to his father’s throne. Taking up both the conference theme of the “chain” and geographer Doreen Massey’s concept of space not as the flat, the essential and the fixed, but as the shifting meeting place of manifold “stories-so-far,” this paper reinterprets Pahlavi’s inhabitance of the suburbs of Northern Virginia as both a reflection of and testimony to the dense, deeply engrained affective world of U.S. empire in the surrounding landscape.

The Crown Prince’s house was the symbolic center of a lifeworld stretching for only a few miles, yet one which included close friends of the shah’s family, key CIA agents who steered the 1953 coup, American emissaries who helped run the White Revolution, advisers who trained the shah’s secret police, and elite Americans who frequented and fundamentally shaped Iran’s cultural and social life during Reza Pahlavi’s childhood. To recover these intimate linkages, the paper uses memoirs of the Pahlavi family, land-use records, building permits and site plans. But the bulk of the argument builds on the sixteen boxes of a little-studied county court case in which the Crown Prince and one of his family’s longtime confidants and advisers, Ahmad Ansari, battled each other for more than a decade over stolen funds and broken promises of trust and guardianship. Northern Virginia’s suburban trope of the family squabble came to define the Crown Prince’s government in exile, producing an allegorical second fall of the shah, the prelude to his resurgence in popularity in the 2000s. The case illustrates how the participants imagined U.S. imperial Tehran and U.S. imperial Tehran in Northern Virginia as intertwined. Both sides, meanwhile, claimed Northern Virginia’s weight as a transnational geopolitical space as a base to win affections and maintain authority in an exile community extending from California to London to Paris.

The paper examines these complex relationships to display how U.S. empire folds itself into everyday American domestic space and how political figures use the space of the homefront to conjure international authority and recover historical memories blunted by discrete categories such as “the American suburb” and “U.S. foreign policy.” The paper also argues that these relationships can only be understood through an analysis using a wide spatial frame, disrespectful of boundaries, predicated on linkages, and stretching over deep periods of time.


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