A Showcase of Modernity in the Third World: JFK and the Path of Reforms in Iran

Fifty Years Without JFK: Rethinking Global Diplomacy
Asia: Panel 3

A Showcase of Modernity in the Third World: JFK and the Path of Reforms in Iran
Claudia Castiglioni (University of Milan)

For the United States, the early sixties marked the launch of a new form of cultural, political, social, and economic hegemony: the idea of development, used both as a vehicle to contrast with Soviet offensives in the Third World and as a way to renew the image of the US. Economic growth and political reformism were regarded as instruments to harness the change produced by the process of decolonisation and to 'immunise' the Third World against the 'disease' of Communism. The Kennedy administration chose Iran as a showcase in the Middle East to illustrate the benefits of transition from authoritarianism and backwardness to political reformism and socio-economic progress. The choice was not accidental. In the post-war period Iran represented a paradigm of the developing country, attempting to take advantage of the competition between the United States and the USSR, in search of its own path to development but, at the same time, trying to embody the modernisation requested by Washington as a condition for economic and military support. At the crossroads between Kennedy ambitious project for the Middle East and Khrushchev provocative moves towards the Gulf, Iran became a crucial test to evaluate the effectiveness of Washington's attempt to reassess its policy towards the Third World and the limits and contradictions of the modernisation theory that propelled the administration's dynamism. The result was to place American policy in the insidious field of the reformism from above, setting the stage for a major involvement in the Iranian domestic affairs, and altering the dynamics of the alliance for the decades to come. Drawing on American official papers and the documents of some international organizations, the paper explores the challenges and the changes US policy toward Iran went through during the Kennedy years as a way to look at the evolution of Washington's approach towards the Third World in a period of intellectual activism and cold war imperatives, and to present the legacy of the administration's policy towards a country which, after being one of US staunchest allies in the area, is now one of the most vocal opponent to its global hegemony.

Asia: Panel 3 (Senate Room)
Chair: Professor Rana Mitter (Oxford)

JFK, China, and Nuclear Arms in Asia
Matthew Jones (University of Nottingham)

A Showcase of Modernity in the Third World: JFK and the Path of Reforms in Iran
Claudia Castiglioni (University of Milan)

'The decisive struggle in the Cold War': JFK, India and the containment of Communist China
Paul McGarr (University of Nottingham) Read by Matthew Hill

Q&A Session
Chair: Professor Rana Mitter (Oxford)

Author: 
Institute for the Study of the Americas
Speaker(s): 
Claudia Castiglioni (University of Milan)
Event date: 
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 - 12:00am
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