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Prof. Saïd Arjomand, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

(05–07/2017, 05–07/2018, 04–05/2021)

Areas of interest

  • comparative cultural sociology
  • historical sociology
  • law and constitutional politics in Islamic countries

Multiple secularities and patterns of state secularisation and oppositional contestation in Iran, Egypt and Tunisia

The paradoxes of secularisation were already noted by some observers in the 1960s in the course of the development of (unitary) modernisation theory. D.E. Smith, for instance, wrote about the contradictory implications of secularisation and the expansion of the polity/state, and the increasing salience of religion in electoral (and revolutionary) mass political participation. As the theory of multiple modernities began to question the uniform transformation and conversion of all modern societies (S.N. Eisenstadt), the culturally specific definitions of secularity and its opposite in societies of different cultural/civilisational zones came to multiply the varied official definitions of secularism/laïcité (or lack thereof) by modernising elites of different nation states.
The objective of this project is to compare and contrast multiple secularities generated by the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, with those generated by the Arab revolution of 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia, differentiating further between the consequences of 2011 in these two Arab countries. The paradoxes of modernisation mentioned above will serve as both a historical background and an analytical framework.
The project will conduct a systematic comparison of the political discourse and constitutional debates in the three countries in order to explain and contrast the divergent patterns of multiple secularities that emerged during the struggle for the definition of the constitutional order to follow the three revolutions. The explanation will consist in comparing the pattern of political contestation and dissent by opposition groups in the course of the Iranian and Arab revolutions. The emergence of a reform movement from within the clerical and revolutionary movement in Iran, will be contrasted with a more complex pattern of dialogue on the definition of the rule of law among the institutions with vested interests in it within the Egyptian state, notably the army, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Azhar, on the one hand, and the compromise among the political parties in the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, on the other.


2004 - 2019

Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology, SUNY, Stony Brook, New York (USA)

2018 - 2019

Principal’s Guest, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala (SWE)

2017 - 2018

Senior Research Fellow, KFG Multiple Secularities, Leipzig University, Leipzig (GER)

2008 - 2017

Director, Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies, State University of New York at Stony Brook (USA)

2006 - 2008

Visiting Fellow, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University (USA)

​2004 - present

Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at Stony Brook (USA)

2004 - 2005

Inaugural Martin & Kathleen Crane Fellow and Visiting Professor of Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, Princeton (USA)

1993 - 1994

R.D. Sharpe Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies, Divinity School, University of Chicago, Chicago (USA)


Visiting Professor of Sociology and Development Studies, University of California, Berkeley (USA)

1984 - 1985

Member, Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), Princeton (USA)

1981 - 1982

Fellow, St. Antony's College, Oxford University, Oxford (UK)


PhD, Sociology, University of Chicago, Chicago (USA)

Relevant Publications

  • Arjomand, Said, and Nathan Brown. “Introduction: Historical and Comparative Macrosociology of Middle Eastern Legal Systems.” Onati Socio-Legal Series 10, no. 5 (2020).
  • Arjomand, Said. “Secularisation through Legal Modernisation in the Middle East and North Africa.” In Companion to the Study of Secularity. Edited by HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities.” Leipzig University, 2019.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Persianate Islam and the Secularity of Kingship.” In Companion to the Study of Secularity. Edited by HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities.” Leipzig University, 2019.
  • Arjomand, Said. Sociology of Shiʿite Islam: Collected Essays. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016.
  • Arjomand, Said and Brown, Nathan J. The Rule of Law: Islam and Constitutional Politics in Egypt and Iran. Albany N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2013.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Axial civilizations, multiple modernities, and Islam.” Journal of Classical Sociology, 11.3 (2011): 327–35.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Islamic Resurgence and Its Aftermaths,” in The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol.6. Edited by Robert Hefner, 173–97. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Legitimacy and Political Organisation: Caliphs, Kings and Regimes,” in The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 4, edited by Robert Irwin, 225–73. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Developmental Patterns and Processes in Islamicate Civilization and the Impact of Modernization,” in The Benefit Of Broad Horizons: Intellectual And Institutional Preconditions For A Global Social Science. Edited by Hans Joas and Barbro Klein, 205–26. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
  • Arjomand, Said. After Khomeini: Iran under his Successors. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Arjomand, Said. “The Constitution of Medina: A Socio-legal Interpretation of Muhammad’s Acts of Foundation of the Umma.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 41/4 (2009): 555–75.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Has Iran’s Islamic Revolution ended?” Radical History Review, 105/10 (2009): 132–38.
  • Arjomand, Said.Constitutional Politics in the Middle East: With special reference to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. London: Hart Publishers, 2008.
  • Arjomand, Said. “The Salience of Political Ethic in the Spread of Persianate Islam.” Journal of Persianate Studies, 1/1 (2008): 5–29.
  • Arjomand, Said. “Islamic Constitutionalism.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3 (2007): 115–40.
  • Arjomand, Said and Edward A. Tiryakian. Rethinking civilizational analysis. London: Sage Publishers, 2004.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Islam, Political Change and Globalization." Thesis Eleven, 76 (2004): 5–24.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Coffeehouses, Guilds & Oriental Despotism: Government & Civil Society in late-17th-early 18th Century Istanbul and Isfahan, and as seen from Paris & London." Archives européennes de sociologie/European Journal of Sociology, 45/1 (2004): 23–42.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Social Theory and the Changing World: Mass Democracy, Development, Modernization and Globalization." International Sociology, 19/3 (2004): 321–53.
  • Arjomand, Said. "The Reform Movement and the Debate on Modernity and Tradition in Contemporary Iran." International Journal of Middle East Studies, 34/4 (2002): 719–31.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Perso-Indian Statecraft, Greek Political Science and the Muslim Idea of Government." International Sociology, 16/3 (2001): 461–80.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Authority in Shi`ism and Constitutional Developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran," in The Twelver Shia in Modern Times: Religious Culture & Political History. Edited by Rainer Brunner, 301–32. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
  • Arjomand, Said. "Civil Society and the Rule of Law in the Constitutional Politics of Iran under Khatami." Social Research, 76/ 2 (2000): 283–301.