Omid Payrow Shabani | College of Arts

Omid Payrow Shabani


Omid Payrow Shabani  (1962-2023)

Dr. Abdollah (Omid) Payrow Shabani, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph, died in Toronto on December 23 2023 after a long and debilitating illness. He was 61.  His partner Marjan Bateni describes his youth:
Omid came from a war-torn area of Iran, from a middle-class family of educators who had to flee their hometown during the Iran-Iraq war. They had to take refuge in the city of Karaj, north of Tehran, with their house and belongings all gone in the war. When he finished high school, Omid was not allowed to attend university in Iran because he was politically active. All his like-minded friends started mysteriously disappearing or were taken to unknown locations by Iranian authorities, so he fled, moving from country to country, with the threat of death or imprisonment at every corner, doing any possible survival jobs. He drove cabs, washed dishes at restaurants. When Canada finally gave him asylum, he did not speak any English or French. He started learning English by attending ESL classes.

In Canada, Omid settled in Ottawa, earning B.A. and M.A. degrees from Carleton University, and the Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Ottawa in 2000. He was a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the New School in 2002, where he studied with Jurgen Habermas, one of the most influential political thinkers of the 20th Century. He came to the University of Guelph in 2003. His first book, Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy: Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas, was published in 2003 by the University of Toronto Press. Throughout his academic career, Omid continued to write about the nature of democracy, about multiculturalism, and about civil society. Many of his publications, including his last article in 2023, concern the political situation in Iran. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in social and political philosophy, ethics, critical theory, and the philosophy of law at the University of Guelph.

Omid leaves behind a legacy of intellectual vigor, resilience, and a profound commitment to democratic ideals. His contributions to political theory, particularly on the political complexities of Iran, will continue to inspire scholars and advocates alike. In the hearts of those who knew him, Omid’s memory will be cherished as a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Though he is no longer with us, his memory will live on in the hearts of his partner, his daughter, his colleagues, his students, and everyone fortunate enough to have known him.

Remembrances of Omid can be published beneath his obituary, on the Daily Nous website, here.





B.A. Carleton, 1993 

M.A. Carleton, 1995

Ph.D. University of Ottawa, 2000


Social and political philosophy, Critical Theory, German Idealism, contemporary continental philosophy, minority rights, ethics and theories of democracy and justice. I will be happy to supervise any research project along these lines with incoming graduate students.



Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy: Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003





Multiculturalism and the Law: A Critical Debate, University of Wales Press, March 2007.





Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy, eds. Omid Payrow Shabani and Monique Deveaux, Oxford University Press, 2014



Papers in Refereed Journals:


  • "On Resistance: As evinced in the Iranian Political Affairs," Digest of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.32, No. 2, (2023) pp.151-158: .
  • "The Ineliminability of the Idea of Progress," Value Inquiry, Vol. 53, No. 4, 217, 663-680.
  • "To be a Courtier in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Political Theory, 43/4 (2015) pp. 427-450.
  • "Taking Religious Voices in the Public Sphere Seriously?," The Procedddings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy in Athens.
  • "The Green’s Non-violent Ethos: The Roots of Non-Violence in the Iranian Democratic Movement,” Constellations, 20/2 (2013) pp. 347-360.        
  • “The Emerging Non-violence Ethos in the Iranian Protest Movement,” Proceedings of the 25th World Congress of the International Association of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 2012.
  • The Role of Religion in Democratic Politics: Tolerance and the Boundary of Public Reason," Religious Education, 106/3, 2011, pp.  332-346.
  • Reading Habermas in Iran: Political Tolerance and the Prospect of Non-violent Movement in Iran," Journal of Global Ethics, Volume 6 Issue 2, 2010, pp. 141-151.
  • "Freedom of Religion, Democracy and the Fact of Pluralism," The Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy, Vol. 50, 2008, pp. 729-747. 
  • "Cosmopolitan Justice and Immigration: A Critical Theory Perspective" European Journal of Social Theory, vol.10, no. 1, 2007, pp. 88-98.
  • "Constitutional Patriotism as a Model of Postnational Political Association: the Case of the EU", Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 32, No. 6, 2006, pp.699-718
  • "Language Policy of a Civic Nation-State: Constitutional Patriotism and Minority Language Rights", in The Language Question in Europe and Diverse Societies: Political, Legal and Social Perspectives, eds. D. Castiglione and C. Longman, Hart Publications, 2007.
  • "Language Policy and Diverse Societies: Constitutional Patriotism and Minority Language Rights," Constellation, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2004, 193-216
  • Critical Theory and the Seducement of ‘the Art of the Possible'," The Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 36, No.1, March 2003, 85-106
  • "Law and Legitimacy in Habermas' Discourse Ethics," in Legal Philosophy: General Aspects: Theoretical Examinations and Practical Application, edited by Patricia Smith & Paolo Comanducci, Proceedings of the 19th World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, New York, June 24-30, 1999 (Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2002) 33-48.
  • "Who is Afraid of Constitutional Patriotism? The Binding Source of Citizenship in Constitutional States," Social Theory and Practice, 28 (3), 2002, pp. 419-43.
  • "Rethinking the Iranian Revolution in View of the Concept of Political Culture," Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis, Vol. XXV, No. 2, 1999, pp. 163-174.

Critical Book Review: The Ethics of Patriotism: A Debate, by John Kleinig, Simon Keller and Igor Primoratz, Social Thory and Practice, Vol.42, no. 3, July 2016

Critical Book Review: Rethinking Iranian Nationalism and Modernity, Kameran Scot Aghaie and Afshin Marashi (eds.), SCTIW Review, March 10, 2015.



-"Setteing an Example in the Absence of Freedom," XXIV World Congress of Philosophy, Beiging, 13-20 August, 2018.

-"Setting an Example as Resistance, in the Absence of Any Prospect for Freedom," IICAH International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Dubai, 26-28 February, 2017.

-"The Ineliminability of the Idea of Progress," IAFOR International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Hawaii, 5-7 January, 2017.

-"Tyranny and the Politics of the Second Best," The European Conference on Ethics, Religion and Philosophy, Brighton, UK, 6-8 July, 2015. 

-"To be a Courtier In the Islamic Government of Iran," Pacific Northwest Political Science Association's Annual Meeting, Vancouver, 17-19 October, 2013. 

-"Taking Religious Voices in the Public Sphere Seriously?," XXIII World Congress of Philosophy, Athena, 4-10 August, 2013.

-“The Green’s Non-violent Ethos: The Roots of Non-Violence in the Iranian Democratic Movement,” Critical Theory Roundtable, 9-13 May, 2102, Prague, Czech Republic.

-“The Emerging Non-Violence in the Iranian Protest Movement,” XXV World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Sciences, 15-20 August, 2011, Frankfurt, Germany.

-"The Emerging Non-violence in the Iranian Protest Movement ", the 9th International Conference on New Directions in Humanities, 8-11 June, 2011, Granada, Spain.

-"Between revolution and Reform: The Prospect of Non-violent Movement in Iran,” Biannual meeting of the International Society for Iranian Studies, Santa Monica, 27-30 June, 2010.

-“Secularism, Religion and Democracy:On the Boundary of Public Reason,” An International Conference on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 on the theme of “Retreat of the Secular?” at York University, Canada, May 1-3, 2009.

 -“Freedom of Religion Democracy and the Fact of Pluralism”, XXII World Congress of Philosophy, Seoul, South Korea, July 30-August 5, 2008.
-“Post-Secular Thinking about the Role of Religion in Democratic Politics”, Canadian Philosophical association Annual Meeting, Vancouver, May 30-June 2, 2008.
-“Freedom of Religion Democracy and the Fact of Pluralism”, Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Vancouver, June 2-5, 2008.
-“Religion, secularism and Democracy”, 5th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Paris, 17-21 July, 2007.
-“Religion, secularism and Democracy”, The 4th International Conference on Human Right, Mofid University, 16-17 May, 2007.